Justice News

Department of Justice
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Justice Department Settles Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Against Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into a settlement agreement with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) that, if approved by the court, will resolve the complaint of pattern or practice religious discrimination filed by the United States against WMATA under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The United States filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in September 2008, alleging that WMATA violated Title VII by failing to reasonably accommodate and provide equal employment opportunities to employees and prospective employees whose religious practices require an accommodation from WMATA’s uniform policy for bus operators and similarly situated employees. The United States also alleged that WMATA discriminated against Gloria Jones who applied and met all of the minimum qualifications for bus operator position, but could not comply for religious reasons with the portion of WMATA’s uniform policy that required bus operators to wear pants. At the start of the orientation process, Ms. Jones requested an accommodation that would allow her to wear a skirt instead of pants, consistent with her religious practice, along with the rest of the bus operator uniform. WMATA summarily denied her request for a religious accommodation and terminated the hiring process.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, WMATA is required to implement and distribute a religious accommodation policy consistent with Title VII’s requirement to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of all employees and prospective employees. WMATA also is required to provide mandatory training on religious discrimination and accommodation for its supervisory employees. Additionally, WMATA will pay $47,324 to Jones and $2,500 to each of the two other individuals who requested but were denied an accommodation from WMATA’s uniform policy, according to terms of the agreement.

"This settlement agreement sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate religious discrimination by employers," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "I am pleased that WMATA has agreed to end its discriminatory practice and put into place mechanisms to protect the religious practices of its current and future employees."

Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin or religion, and prohibits retaliation against an employee who opposes an unlawful employment practice, or because the employee has made a charge or participated in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under the Act. More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp/index.html

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