Brink's Slapped with Pants Suit

January 3, 2003 ( - Security firm Brink's Inc, a division of Pittston Co Inc, has been hit with a $30,000 penalty on charges it discriminated against a female Pentecostal employee's religious beliefs.

The penalty comes as part of a Consent Decree filed by Judge Michael Mihm of the US District Court for the Central District of Illinois in EEOC v Brink’s Inc.  

In addition to the $30,000 penalty, Brink’s must also make restitution for attorney’s fee and to step up religious discrimination training; thereby resolving the religious discrimination suit brought by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Brink’s.

Attempted Accomodations

The EEOC brought the lawsuit on behalf of Carol Grotts; a practicing Pentecostal who was hired by Brink’s to work as a relief messenger at its Peoria, Illinois, area facility.  Grotts, whose Pentecostal religious beliefs preclude her from wearing pants, requested a modification of the standard issue uniform.   Per her request, she offered to purchase culottes of uniform material at her own expense to wear in lieu of pants.   Brink’s refused her request and terminated her employment.

Upon her termination, Grotts filed a Discrimination Charge with the EEOC, claiming Brink’s violated her Title VII rights requiring reasonable accommodation of her religious beliefs .  The EEOC said it attempted to conciliate the case unsuccessfully, after which time the agency filed suit.

Brink’s later reinstated Grotts as a relief messenger, permitting her to wear culottes in accordance with her religious beliefs.

Settlement Terms

The $30,000 in monetary relief provided to Grotts is in addition to payment for her attorney’s fees and the requirement that Brink’s train all managers at its Peoria area facility about Title VII’s prohibitions on religious discrimination and a company’s duty to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs.

Additionally, the Consent Decree mandates Brink’s to distribute its policy against religious discrimination to all employees at its Peoria branch and post a notice that the company will not discriminate on the basis of religion, through reasonable modification to its uniform requirements to accommodate religious beliefs.

EEOC Attorney John Hendrickson, remarking about the case said, “This Consent Decree is an important reminder for employers that Title VII requires reasonable accommodation of an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. In our religiously pluralistic society, employers cannot unreasonably create inflexible policies that infringe upon an individual’s ability to live in accordance with his or her religious beliefs.”

Hendrickson noted an increase in the number of religious discrimination charge filings with the EEOC nationwide, up 21% in the past year and 40% since 1994.