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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 12, 2010
Justice Department Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Against Essex County, N.J.

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with Essex County, N.J., that, will resolve the department’s lawsuit against Essex County for refusing to permit a corrections officer to wear a religiously-mandated headscarf.

The lawsuit, if approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleges employment discrimination on the basis of religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

The department’s complaint alleges that Essex County refused to permit Yvette Beshier to wear a khimar (religiously-mandated headscarf) while working as a corrections officer. According to the complaint, the Essex County Department of Corrections first suspended Beshier and then terminated her on the ground that her wearing a khimar violated its uniform policy for corrections officers. The complaint alleges that Beshier had requested a religious accommodation that would permit her to wear her khimar, but Essex County denied her request.

Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion. The act’s religious discrimination provisions require employers to make reasonable accommodation for applicants’ and employees’ religious observances, practices and beliefs.

The settlement agreement obtained by the department requires Essex County to pay Beshier a monetary award of $25,000. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Essex County has adopted a religious accommodation policy and procedure and will provide employees with training regarding religious discrimination and accommodation.

"An individual should not have to choose between keeping a job and practicing their faith when accommodations can be reasonably made," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "We are pleased that Essex County has agreed to give fair consideration to its employees’ requests for reasonable accommodations."

"We are proud to partner with the Department of Justice in ensuring that the workplace is free of religious discrimination," said Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces Title VII. "As our country becomes more diverse, we must remain vigilant about protecting workers from bias in the workplace."

The Newark, N.J., area office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated and attempted to resolve Beshier’s charge of discrimination before referring it to the department for litigation. More information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of Title VII. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its websites at www.justice.gov/crt/ and www.justice.gov/crt/emp/.

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