Department Store Settles EEOC Discrimination Suit

March 16, 2011 ( – Department store Belk Inc. will pay $55,000 to settle a religious discrimin­ation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Commission (EEOC).

According to an EEOC news release, the EEOC charged in its lawsuit that Belk violated federal law when it failed to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and then fired her because of her religion (see Department Store Fired Jehovah’s Witness for not Wearing Santa Outfit).

The agency said that during the 2008 Christmas holiday season, Belk, Inc. required Myra Jones-Abid, who worked at Belk’s Crabtree Valley Mall store in Raleigh, to wear a Santa hat and apron. Jones-Abid’s religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses, prohibits her from recognizing holidays, and therefore she declined to wear the holiday garb. On November 27, 2008, Belk terminated Jones-Abid for refusing to wear the apparel.

In addition to paying monetary relief to Jones-Abid, the settlement requires Belk to take other actions, including providing annual training on religious discrimination to all of its managers and supervisors at the store where Jones-Abid worked. In addition, Belk must post there a notice on employees’ rights under federal anti-discrimination laws and provide periodic reports to the EEOC on actions taken in response to employees who have requested religious accommodations.

“No employee should be forced to choose between her faith and 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.