PHILADELPHIA – A settlement has been awarded in a case against a Philadelphia restaurant with an apparent "no hoodies" policy regarding an employee’s right to wear a headscarf as part of her religious freedom.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit against Rotten Ralph’s Restaurant in the case EEOC v. Half Shell Inn. In the case, the EEOC charged that a general manager refused Tia Rollins, an employee, the right to wear a khimar as part of her religious beliefs.
Khimars are worn by Muslim women, especially during religious holidays such as Ramadan.
When Rollins wore the scarf to work at Rotten Ralph’s, the general manager allegedly became outraged, saying that “hoodies” were not allowed. Rollins informed the manager that she wore the scarf as part of her religious beliefs and needed to keep the scarf on while she worked. The manager refused to accommodate Rollins, instead terminating her employment at Rotten Ralph’s.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit claiming that Rollins was terminated from Rotten Ralph’s because of her religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Prior to filing the suit, the EEOC attempted to reach a settlement with Rotten Ralph’s through its conciliation process.
Kimberly Smith-Brown, director and spokeswoman for the EEOC told the Pennsylvania Record, “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits EEOC employees from confirming or denying the existence of charge filings, investigations or administrative resolutions. The only time information about a specific case becomes public is if EEOC files a lawsuit against the employer, which is usually a last resort.”
In April, a consent decree was filed in the case that stipulated a $21,000 settlement. All of it is to be paid to Rollins, with $7,775 classified as lost wages.
Rotten Ralph's also agreed to employee training.
While the EEOC issued a press release when it filed the case, it didn't issue one when the case was settled.
This case follows the 2015 ruling in the EEOC's case against Abercrombie and Fitch case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an employer can’t refuse to hire an employee based on the inability to accommodate a religious freedom.
When Rollins applied for the server position at Rotten Ralph’s, she told the general manager that she did not wear revealing clothes and that she wore her hair covered because of her religion. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers to modify dress codes to conform with an employee’s religious beliefs such as to wear head scarves to cover the hair as part of a religious belief.
In the lawsuit, Rotten Ralph’s was represented by David F. McComb and Grace H. Flanagan from Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, P.C. The EEOC was represented by Lawrence, Maria L. Morocco and Jennifer L. Hope.