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Employers have faced an increased number of charges filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging them with religious discrimination. Recent cases include:
THE EEOC ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK that the Los Angeles Fire Department will pay $494,000 to settle a lawsuit in which firefighter-engineer Anthony Almeida charged he was subject to sexual and religious harassment, which appeared linked to a lawsuit filed against the Catholic Church regarding sexual abuse he suffered by a priest. The fire department said in a statement that changes it has made since the 2006 events underlying Mr. Almeida's complaint occurred include establishing an EEOC investigative unit.
IN JANUARY, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Fayetteville, Ark.-based Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corp., charging that it fired an employee who is a Jehovah's Witness after she asked for a day off to attend a religious convention. The company said it plans to vigorously defend the case.
IN DECEMBER 2011, the EEOC filed suit on behalf of 25 former drivers for Hertz Transportation Inc. who are Muslim, who were terminated from their jobs at Seattle's Sea-Tac airport over the issue of clocking out for prayer breaks, in Hassan Farah et al. vs. Hertz Transportation Inc. Hertz has defended its actions.
IN NOVEMBER, 2011, Philadelphia-based Imperial Security Inc. agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a religious discrimination claim made by Julie Holloway-Russell, a Muslim, who was terminated after she refused to remove a khimar, a cloth that covered her hair, ears and neck.
Religious discrimination claims in the workplace are on the rise and expected to be a growing problem for employers, which experts say reflects a rise in religious rhetoric and better employee knowledge of their rights.