Thursday, May 5, 2016

Colorado Jury Tosses Religious Failure to Accommodate Claims

After a nearly eight-year battle with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and several intervenors, a Denver airport contractor defeated a lawsuit alleging it failed to accommodate Muslim women who asked to wear long skirts at work based on their religious belief that women should dress modestly.  See EEOC v. Jetstream Ground Services, Inc., No. 13-cv-02340-CMA-KMT, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. 
The contractor, Jetstream Ground Services, argued that allowing the women to work in long skirts as aircraft cabin cleaners posed an undue hardship based on the safety risks they faced when accessing aircraft from jetway stairs.  Last fall, the district court refused to grant summary judgment on this issue for Jetstream, and the case proceeded to trial.

Last week, a federal jury in Colorado returned a verdict that found the EEOC and the intervenors failed to prove their discrimination claims. 

Employers faced with discrimination claims based on an alleged failure to accommodate religious beliefs should be mindful that the determination of the existence of an undue hardship is based on the facts of each case, and cannot be based on speculative safety concerns.