Plant Workers Wear the Pants

February 8, 2002 ( - For Brenda Enlow, not wearing pants was a religious matter, but supervisors at an Indiana metal fabricating factory objected to skirts and dresses, reasoning that they might get caught in the machinery.

Given those safety concerns, a federal judge found that Oak-Rite Manufacturing Corp’s requirement that employees wear pants at work was not out of line and threw out Enlow’s discrimination suit.

Enlow, a member of the Conservative Holiness movement, which forbids women to wear men’s clothing, had complained to the EEOC when the company refused to hire her or change its dress policy.

The EEOC filed suit on her behalf in US District Court in Indianapolis in December 1999, charging that the company violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act against religious discrimination.

“There is no evidence of religious hostility” by the firm, and the pants-only policy is a reasonable, neutral safety procedure,” US District Judge David Hamilton wrote.

“We feel like our company was wrongly accused, but through the legal system it was proven that we made every attempt to do things right. Our position is never to discriminate against any person,” plant Manager Jerry Stewart commented.