Restaurant owner faces religious discrimination lawsuit over trouser requirements
The US' Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing a restaurant chain for firing an employee who refused to wear company-prescribed pants because of her religious beliefs.
On her first day of work at a Georgia Blue restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi, Kaetoya Watkins wore a denim skirt even as waitresses were required to wear blue jeans.
She had earlier told her manager that her religion –Pentecostal – prohibited her from wearing pants. She got no response.
She was fired when she got to the restaurant. Later she received a voicemail message from the manager saying he had spoken with the owner and that the restaurant "would 'not stray away from' its dress code policy,” the Jackson Free Press reported.
The commission says Georgia Blue LLC, whose restaurants sell southern and Creole food in four Mississippi cities, discriminated against the beliefs of its employee.
"Most religious accommodations are not burdensome, such as allowing an employee to wear a skirt instead of pants," Marsha L. Rucker, an EEOC attorney, said in a statement.
"It would have been simple to allow Ms. Watkins to wear a long skirt at work. No worker should be obligated to choose between making a living and following her religious convictions."
The federal agency, requesting a jury trial, also seeks appropriate back pay and punitive damages for the employee.
It also wants to permanently ban the restaurant chain “from applying its dress code policies in a manner that fails to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of its employees and applicants."
The EEOC regional office in Birmingham, Alabama, handles cases for most of Mississippi.