US company penalized $70,000 for instructing Muslim employee to shave beard


In the United States, Blackwell Security Services Inc. has agreed to pay $70,000 and implement additional measures to resolve a religious discrimination lawsuit initiated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The federal agency asserted that Blackwell, by refusing to accommodate an employee’s religious practices, compelled him to make an unwarranted choice between his faith and his livelihood. The EEOC’s lawsuit detailed that the employee, a practicing Muslim serving as a concierge in Chicago, Illinois, wore a beard as part of his religious observance. Shortly after joining, a Blackwell supervisor informed him of the company’s clean-shaven policy.

Even after the employee requested permission to maintain his beard for religious reasons, Blackwell insisted that he must either shave it off or risk losing his job. It’s essential to note that allowing him to keep his beard wouldn’t have created any difficulties or additional expenses for the company. In order to keep his job, the employee reluctantly complied by shaving his beard, causing him a significant amount of distress.

This alleged behavior constitutes a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination and mandates employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious observance or practice, unless such accommodation poses an undue hardship. The EEOC initiated legal proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Civil Action No.1:23-cv-14110) after unsuccessful attempts to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the conciliation process.

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