COLUMBIA, S.C. – Akebono Brake Corporation, a Michigan-based company that designs and manufactures automotive brake components, was alleged to have violated federal law when it refused to hire a temporary laborer because of her religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. The EEOC charged that the company discriminatorily interfered with the temporary laborer’s employment opportunities with her direct employer, a temporary labor service provider.
Clintoria Burnett is an observant member of the Apostolic Faith Church of God and True Holiness, a Pentecostal Christian denomination. Burnett holds the religious belief that she cannot wear pants because she is a woman, and that she is commanded to wear skirts or dresses. Burnett was hired as a temp to work at Akebono’s West Columbia, S.C. Even while she was temping, Akebono maintained the ultimate authority to deny hire to any employee recruited by the TLSP. Burnett was hired by the temp firm to work at Akabono, but the company maintained a dress code policy requiring employees to wear pants while at Akebono’s facility. Ultimately, Akebono directed the temp company not to hire Burnett due to her religious belief and the Company did not consider any potential religious accommodations. The temp agency withdrew her offer of employment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from refusing to hire people because of their religion. Unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer’s operation of its business, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division (EEOC v. Akebono Brake Corporation, Civil Action No. 3:16-cv-03545-CMC-SVH). When an employee or applicant needs a dress or grooming accommodation for religious reasons, she should notify the employer that she needs such an accommodation for religious reasons. If the employer reasonably needs more information, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request. If the request does not pose an undue hardship on the business, the employer must grant the accommodation.
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