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Muslim group backs worker's discrimination complaint

The right to sue an employer can be obtained by filing a claim directly or indirectly with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A claim, filed with a fair employment practice agency like the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, also becomes an EEOC case when a federal violation of employment discrimination laws is alleged.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced recently it would file a religious discrimination complaint with the EEOC on behalf of a flight attendant. The Michigan CAIR chapter claims the woman's employer, ExpressJet, went back on a promise to make reasonable accommodations to address the flight attendant's objection to serving alcohol. The employer apparently agreed the woman could make serving arrangements with a second flight attendant to avoid violating religious beliefs.

Late last month, ExpressJet placed the Muslim worker on a one-year administrative leave, after which the woman may or may not be fired. CAIR asserts the flight attendant was sidelined after a co-worker complained to the airline. Reports did not state the exact nature of the complaint, other than to say the Muslim worker's headscarf was mentioned.

CAIR's executive director in Michigan said the group received a negative response after contacting the airline about the Muslim employee. The EEOC complaint is expected to accuse ExpressJet of violating the flight attendant's civil rights.

The EEOC handles workplace discrimination complaints filed by individuals and parties acting on a worker's behalf. No civil suits for discrimination may be filed against an employer until the EEOC investigates and issues a Notice of Right to Sue. A notice is issued when no employment violation is found or when a violation is uncovered but the agency chooses not to file a lawsuit.

The EEOC will try to reach a settlement with an employer before filing a lawsuit. Workers considering discrimination complaints can benefit by speaking with an employment attorney about the filing process and possible outcomes.

Source: The Detroit News, "Group says airline discriminated against Muslim worker," Melissa Nann Burke, Aug. 31, 2015

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