Essex County to Pay $25,000, Change Policy in Settlement of Religious Discrimination Suit

Essex County will pay $25,000 to a former corrections officer as part of a settlement of a lawsuit claiming the County’s Department of Corrections violated that officer’s religious rights by not allowing her to wear a khimar, a religiously-mandated headscarf. (1)

The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division filed suit against Essex County in June 2009 alleging that the County’s Department of Corrections violated the religious rights of Yvette Beshier, the Muslim corrections officer, under Title VII when it denied Beshier reasonable religious accommodations that would allow her to wear her headscarf while on duty. Instead, the Department first suspended and then terminated Beshier for violating its uniform policy. (2)

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination due to national origin, sex, race and religious affiliation. (3)

Under the settlement, which was reached this week, Essex County also has agreed to adopt a new religious accommodation policy and offer religious accommodation and discrimination training to its employees. (3)

Initially, this case was investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Newark area office before going to trial. (1)

(1) http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AB47H20101112

(2) http://www.justice.gov/crt/religiousdiscrimination/FF_employment.html

(3) http://www.thecypresstimes.com/article/News/National_News/JUSTICE_DEPARTMENT_SETTLES_RELIGIOUS_DISCRIMINATION_LAWSUIT_AGAINST_ESSEX_COUNTY_NJ/36154