DOJ sues School for Religious Discrimination
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Thread: DOJ sues School for Religious Discrimination

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    Posting Addict GloriaInTX's Avatar
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    Default DOJ sues School for Religious Discrimination

    Should the Department of Justice be involved in this lawsuit? Since they have filed in this case should they file a case for anyone else that is claiming religious discrimination?


    The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against Berkeley School District, Illinois, for refusing to grant unpaid leave to a Muslim teacher who wished to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

    As per the complaint filed in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, Safoorah Khan had requested an unpaid leave of absence in December 2008 to perform Hajj, a pilgrimage required by her religion.

    The Board of Education had twice denied Khan's request citing that the purpose of the leave was neither related to her professional duties as an employee and nor was it a leave for any of the specific purposes set forth in the Professional Negotiations Agreement between the district and the teachers' union.

    After the district denied her request, Khan wrote to the board, saying that "based on her religious beliefs, she could not justify delaying performing Hajj," and she resigned shortly thereafter.

    Khan then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The commission found reasonable causes of discrimination by the school district against her and, after failing in its attempt to conciliate the matter, it forwarded the case to the DOJ.

    In the lawsuit, the DOJ has alleged that the school district has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of the teacher.

    The DOJ is seeking an order requiring Berkeley School District to adopt a policy designed to reasonably accommodate the religious observances, practices and beliefs of employees and prospective employees.

    In addition, the federal government is seeking back pay, compensatory damages and reinstatement for the teacher.

    "Employees should not have to choose between their religious practice and their livelihood," said Assistant Attorney General (Civil Rights Division) Thomas Perez. "Federal law prohibits employers from treating employees and applicants less favorably because of their religion, and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the religious beliefs and practices of their employees."

    This is the first lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice as a result of a pilot project designed to ensure vigorous enforcement of Title VII against state and local governmental employers by enhancing cooperation between the EEOC and the Civil Rights Division.
    Read more: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/9292...#ixzz1HRdUC2KH
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    Community Host wlillie's Avatar
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    Not a lawyer, but it's a federal law they weren't following, so why wouldn't the DOJ be involved? If she was requesting unpaid leave in the month of December, I do think it was discrimination not to give it to her. She would have missed (at most) two weeks of school and wasn't asking for it to be paid for. It would have been a reasonable accomadation.

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    Can she not perform the Hajj in July? ...besides the heat argument.

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    Posting Addict GloriaInTX's Avatar
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    Some other information about the case.

    BERKELEY, Ill. — Safoorah Khan had taught middle school math for only nine months in this tiny Chicago suburb when she made an unusual request. She wanted three weeks off for a pilgrimage to Mecca.

    The school district, faced with losing its only math lab instructor during the critical end-of-semester marking period, said no. Khan, a devout Muslim, resigned and made the trip anyway.

    Justice Department lawyers examined the same set of facts and reached a different conclusion: that the school district’s decision amounted to outright discrimination against Khan. They filed an unusual lawsuit, accusing the district of violating her civil rights by forcing her to choose between her job and her faith.

    As the case moves forward in federal court in Chicago, it has triggered debate over whether the Justice Department was following a purely legal path or whether suing on Khan’s behalf was part of a broader Obama administration campaign to reach out to Muslims.

    The decision to take on a small-town school board has drawn criticism from conservatives and Berkeley officials, who say the government should not be standing behind a teacher who wanted to leave her students.

    The lawsuit, filed in December, may well test the boundaries of how far employers must go to accommodate workers’ religious practices — a key issue as the nation grows more multicultural and the Muslim population increases. But it is also raising legal questions. Experts say the government might have difficulty prevailing because the 19-day leave Khan requested goes beyond what courts have considered.

    “It sounds like a very dubious judgment and a real legal reach,” said Michael B. Mukasey, who was attorney general in the George W. Bush administration. “The upper reaches of the Justice Department should be calling people to account for this.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politi...s=rss_politics
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    Posting Addict ClairesMommy's Avatar
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    Should the Department of Justice be involved in this lawsuit? Since they have filed in this case should they file a case for anyone else that is claiming religious discrimination?
    For violations of federal statutes, absolutely. Of course, there is a process for the DOJ to be brought into a case, like here where the complaint was forwarded by the EEOC after they found legitimacy in the teacher's claim.
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    Posting Addict GloriaInTX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Vagina View Post
    Can she not perform the Hajj in July? ...besides the heat argument.
    Apparently she wanted to go that year because she had the money. Though in 2008, the hajj took place from December 6 through 11, so not sure why she needed 3 weeks off.

    Khan, 29, who grew up in North Carolina and Arkansas, was happy in the job, said her lawyer, Kamran A. Memon. But she longed to make the hajj, one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, which Muslims are obligated to do once. It would not have fallen on her summer break for about nine years.

    “This was the first year she was financially able to do it,” Memon said. “It’s her religious belief that a Muslim must go for hajj quickly . . . that it’s a sin to delay.” Khan declined to comment.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politi...tEB_story.html
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    Posting Addict Spacers's Avatar
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    I think the DOJ was right to get involved, there should be an accomodation for religious observations in the unpaid leave rules, but I think this is the wrong case. She taught at that school for less than a year -- everywhere I've worked you can't take leave except sick days within your first year -- and she wanted more time off than absolutely necessary, and it was during a critical period. I'm pretty sure they would have said no to a Christian or atheist who asked for that same time off. I get this was the first year she could afford to do the pilgramage & that she really wanted to go, but I don't buy the argument that she was put in a position of choosing between her job & her faith. I'm pretty sure the Muslim faith doesn't require Hajj to be performed at the expense of losing your job.
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    Community Host wlillie's Avatar
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    I'm guessing travel. But if you use logic, she couldn't afford it that year if she was going to have to quit her job to go. I change my original opinion about this particular case because I think she should have waited until it was more feasible (Winter, Thanksgiving, or Spring break?) AND she could afford it. I didn't realize it was a one-time obligation.

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    Posting Addict Spacers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wlillie View Post
    I change my original opinion about this particular case because I think she should have waited until it was more feasible (Winter, Thanksgiving, or Spring break?) AND she could afford it. I didn't realize it was a one-time obligation.
    Hajj isn't something you schedule when it's convenient. It's a pilgramage to the holy city of Mecca during a particular week of the Muslim calendar. The Muslim calendar is lunar-based, which means that week changes from year to year. All able-bodied Muslims who can afford to do so are required to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime, which many do interpret to mean, "as soon as you can," since you never know if you'll be able-bodied or able to afford it next year, but I've never heard of anyone quitting their job to do it.

    I wonder if she went that year after all?
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  10. #10
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    I don't know. 19 days in December at the end of semester? She was the only Math lab teacher? That's tough. That's requesting a lot for a religious accommodation and I'm leaning toward it not being reasonable request.

    I guess she did go anyway.

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