Department Store Fired Jehovah’s Witness for not Wearing Santa Outfit

July 30, 2010 ( - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says department store chain Belk, Inc. unlawfully discriminated against an employee by failing to accommodate her religious beliefs and discharging her because of her religion.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina alleges that on or about November 27, 2008, Belk required Myra Jones-Abid, who worked in the gift wrap section of Belk’s Crabtree Valley Mall store in Raleigh, to wear a Santa hat and apron. Jones-Abid is a Jehovah’s Witness, and her religion prohibits her from celebrating holidays, including Christmas, an EEOC announcement said.   

Because of her religious beliefs, Jones-Abid refused to wear the Santa hat and apron, and after she told her supervisors that she could not wear the outfit because of her religion, she was discharged.  

“In this case, the employer refused to provide a simple accommodation to enable Ms. Jones-Abid to practice her sincerely held religious belief and keep her job,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District, which includes the EEOC’s Raleigh Area Office, in the announcement. “An employee should not be forced to choose between her faith and her job.”  

Belk, Inc. is the largest privately owned mainline department store company in the nation, with more than 300 fashion department stores in 16 contiguous Southern states.