Posts Tagged ‘Department of Justice’

DOJ Launches Interagency Initiative to Combat Religious Discrimination; EEOC Joins in Effort

Combating religious discrimination, including in employment, is the goal of a new federal interagency program announced yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, in partnership with other federal agencies, will host a series of community roundtables across the country that focus on protecting people and places of worship from religion-based hate crimes; combating religious discrimination, including bullying, in education and employment; and addressing unlawful barriers that interfere with the construction of places of worship.

Agency officials will facilitate the roundtable discussions to help identify key priorities and lead robust dialogue with community members and civil rights advocates, the DOL said.

A meeting in Birmingham, Alabama will focus on religious discrimination in employment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission won’t be left behind. The commission today posted on its website a “What You Should Know Document” compiling EEOC’s resources regarding religious and national origin-based discrimination.

Here’s DOJ’s announcement and a link to the EEOC document, which is titled What You Should Know About Religious and National Origin Discrimination Against Those Who Are, or Are Perceived to Be, Muslim or Middle Eastern.

Maryland, Sheriff’s Dept. on Hook for $250K in Settlement of Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Who was the officer on the beat at the Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, sheriff’s department? Apparently no one when a female employee at the department was allegedly harassed by several supervisors, the sheriff’s brother among them.

Ultimately it took federal intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice to bring some measure of justice for the alleged victim, Kristy Murphy-Taylor, who will receive money under a settlement that DOJ reached with the county and the department.

Here’s straight from DOJ’s February 12 announcement that the lawsuit had been settled:

“According to the United States’ complaint, over a number of years, Ms. Murphy-Taylor was subjected to numerous acts of unwanted sexual conduct by multiple supervisors including repeated incidents of unwanted sexual touching by the Sheriff’s brother. Despite Ms. Murphy-Taylor’s complaints about the harassment, the complaint alleges that the defendants failed to take prompt and effective corrective action. Instead, they allegedly subjected her to intolerable working conditions intended to make her quit, and ultimately terminated her for complaining about the sexual harassment by the Sheriff’s brother.”

Under the settlement Murphy-Taylor will receive $250,000 in damages, in addition to $620,000 she received under a consent decree reached in 2014


Cities to Remove Disability-Related Questions From Applications Under Terms of Settlement

Four cities have agreed to delete disability-related questions from their employment applications and make other changes to comply with their legal responsibilities under Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the U.S. Justice Department announced today.

DOJ said that its investigation had found that the online applications of DeKalb, Illinois; Vero Beach, Florida; Fallon, Nevada; and Isle of Palms, South Carolina, asked questions about disabilities in violation of the ADA.  The ADA does not permit employers to inquire as to whether an applicant is an individual with a disability or as to the nature of such disability before making a conditional offer of employment, the announcement reminded employers.

Each city’s online employment opportunities website or job applications were not fully accessible to people with disabilities, such as those who are blind or have low vision, are deaf or hard of hearing, or have physical disabilities affecting manual dexterity (such as limited ability to use a mouse).  In recent months, the department reached similar settlement agreements with the city of Hubbard, Oregon, and Florida State University, the announcement said.

The settlement agreements commit each city to ensure that its hiring policies and procedures do not discriminate against any applicant on the basis of disability, including by:

  • not conducting a medical examination or making a disability-related inquiry of a job applicant before a conditional offer of employment is made;
  • not requiring a medical examination or making inquiries of an employee as to whether such employee is an individual with a disability or as to the nature or severity of the disability, unless such examination or inquiry is shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity;
  • maintaining the medical or disability-related information of applicants and employees in separate, confidential medical files;
  • training employees who make hiring or personnel decisions on the requirements of the ADA, designating an individual to address ADA compliance matters, and reporting on compliance; and
  • ensuring that its online employment opportunities website and job applications conform with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, which are industry guidelines for making web content accessible.

Although these settlements involved government employers, the same underlying legal principles apply to the private sector under the ADA. So make these settlements an object lesson in how to make sure your job application processes meet ADA compliance.

School District’s Rule on Beards Draws DOJ Suit

An employer’s grooming policies are once again in the news with word that the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this month filed a Title VII lawsuit against the School District of Philadelphia over application of its short-beard policy.

The school district has a policy that beard forbids security and policy officers from wearing their beards at more than one-quarter inch length. That requirement ran smack into a Muslim police officer’s requirement that he not cut his beard, which he said is a tenet of his religious faith.

The district instituted the policy in 2010, but the officer had been wearing his beard since 1987. “Consistent with his religious beliefs, Abu-Bakr has maintained an untrimmed beard longer than one-quarter inch for the 27 years that he has worked for the district, without evidence that the maintenance of an uncut beard has interfered with his job performance,” DOJ said in announcing the lawsuit.

In the suit, DOJ says that when the police officer, Siddiq Abu-Bakr notified his supervisor that he couldn’t comply with the policy, he was issued a reprimanded for questioning the policy. And it later denied his request for a reasonable accommodation without showing undue hardship, it said.

According to the DOJ, which is suing on his behalf and other “similarly situated” employees, the school district has been engaging in a “pattern or practice” of religious discrimination under Title VII.

“Pattern or practice” discriminations means the DOJ thinks that there is widespread discrimination going.

Read more about the case.


N.J. Company Charged by DOJ With Retaliation Under Immigration Law

A New Jersey company is facing U.S. Department of Justice charges that it fired a receptionist because she protested its professed preference for foreign nationals with temporary work visas.

DOJ filed the suit against Whiz International LLC, an information technology staffing company in Jersey City, N.J., alleging it retaliated against the receptionist in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“The complaint alleges that the company directed an employee that served as a receptionist and a recruiter, to prefer certain noncitizens in its recruitment efforts and then terminated the employee when she expressed discomfort with excluding U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from consideration. The anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who oppose a practice that is illegal under the statute or who attempt to assert rights under the statute,” the DOJ said.