Georgia Blue, a restaurant chain in Mississippi, has been sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for firing a woman who wore a skirt to work because it’s against her religion to wear jeans.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit on behalf of Kaetoya Watkins, an Apostolic Pentecostal woman who was hired by the restaurant as a server. According to that denomination of Christianity, women shouldn’t wear slacks, jeans, makeup, or jewelry.
… Georgia Blue has a dress code requiring servers to wear blue jeans. Watkins notified Georgia Blue of her Apostolic Pentecostal religious belief that women should wear only skirts or dresses and requested the reasonable accommodation of wearing a blue skirt. According to the EEOC, Georgia Blue denied the accommodation, advising Watkins that “the owner” would “not stray away from” the company dress code.
According to the Washington Post, Watkins reported for work wearing a jean skirt and “was sent home.”
The government says sending her home for that reason goes against Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which “requires employers to provide reasonable religious accommodations to employees.” That’s the same law that’s been used to protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination — but Trump’s Justice Department has opposed that interpretation.
Watkins is protected by the law, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to ensure religious beliefs are protected. EEOC attorney Marsha L. Rucker said no worker should be forced “to choose between making a living and following her religious convictions.”
“Most religious accommodations are not burdensome, such as allowing an employee to wear a skirt instead of pants… It would have been simple to allow Ms. Watkins to wear a long skirt at work.”
Rucker isn’t wrong. Watkins was capable of doing everything her job required, and there’s no reason to think she wasn’t living up to expectations. Other than not wanting to wear jeans, she was, as far as we can tell, a model employee. Title VII protects atheists, too, by the way. The EEOC’s website notes that non-believers may be “excused from the religious invocation offered at the beginning of staff meetings” under the law for the same reason: It doesn’t hamper their ability to do the work.
If we want to be protected for our lack of faith, we should protect others from religious discrimination as well. Watkins wasn’t hurting anybody. She wasn’t a problem for customers. She just had personal reasons for not wearing clothes that show off her body, even in arguably modest ways. She shouldn’t have been fired because of it.
(Image via Shutterstock)