In a law enforcement environment, safety interests trump sincere religious beliefs
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v The GEO Group, Inc., USCA 3rd Circuit, No. 09-3093
GEO, a private company, contracted to run the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, the prison for Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
In April 2005, the Hill Facility instituted a dress policy that provided that “[n]o hats or caps will be permitted to be worn in the facility unless issued with the uniform.” The new policy also stated that “[s]carves and hooded jackets or sweatshirts will not be permitted past the Front Security Desk.”
These directives were interpreted to prohibit the wearing of a khimar, an “Islamic religious head scarf, designed to cover the hair, forehead, sides of the neck, shoulders, and chest,” which was until then worn by some female Muslim employees inside of the Hill Facility.
EEOC filed a lawsuit on behalf of a class of Muslim women employees against GEO, contending that GEO violated Title VII's prohibitions on religious discrimination when it failed to accommodate the Muslim female employees by providing them an exception to the prison's dress policy that prevented them from wearing khimars at work.
The Circuit Court affirmed the federal district court’s decision granting GEO's motion for summary judgment dismissing EEOC’s complaint.
The district court had cited Webb v. City of Philadelphia, 562 F.3d 256,* in support of its ruling.
In Webb the US Circuit Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit, held that regardless of the sincere religious beliefs of certain police officer of the need to wear a khimar, their belief had to yield to the Philadelphia's police department's policy prohibiting the wearing of a khimar while on duty because "safety is undoubtedly an interest of the greatest importance."
* The Webb decision is posted on the Internet at http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/073081p.pdf
The GEO decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/093093p.pdf
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS NOT USED, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, IN THE SUMMARIES OF JUDICIAL AND QUASI-JUDICIAL DECISIONS PREPARED BY NYPPL
Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.
THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. AGAIN, CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE, OR CORRESPONDENCE CONCERNING SUCH MATERIAL, DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.
New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
Copyright 2009-2023 - Public Employment Law Press. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.