Muslim Garb Suit Survives Dismissal Request

August 9, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal judge has cleared the way for a suit alleging discrimination by a woman who claims she was fired for wearing Muslim garb, to move forward.

Senior US District Judge William Yohn of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that plaintiff Betty Davis has made serious enough religious and racial discrimination allegations against Mothers Work Inc. that the suit should survive a defendant’s request for dismissal, the Legal Intelligencer reported.

Yohn pointed out that Davis’s allegations against the maternity clothing store included that the firm had tolerated other violations of its dress code, such as an exposed midriff, and pierced eyebrows and lips.

In legal motions arguing the defendants’ request for dismissal, Davis’ lawyer, Olugbenga Abiona, said the evidence showed that Mothers Work tolerated other violations of its dress code. Temperance Leister – a white, non-Muslim employee – often wore tight-fitting shirts that exposed her “midriff,” piercings in her eyebrows and lips and colored hair, according to testimony in the case.

Yohn found that Davis’ overgarments “arguably conflict” with Mothers Work’s employee dress code, which says store employees must “wear clothing that reflects the current in-store seasonal fashions.”

According to the court ruling, Davis was hired in May 2002 as a part-time supervisor, converted to Islam a month later, and began wearing “overgarments” – a full-length robe and head scarf.

While the company claimed Davis was fired for failing to show up for a scheduled shift in its Motherhood Maternity store in the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania, Yohn found that Davis has evidence that the reason was a “pretext,” and that she was “set up” by a district manager who changed her work schedule without telling her, according to the Legal Intelligencer report. A supervisor claimed she thought Davis was actually a Mormon.

The suit says Davis was fired in August 2002 for missing three shifts. But Davis claims she had called out sick for two of the shifts and was never told she had been scheduled for the third.

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