DOJ Settles Over Hijab

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

DOJ Press Release

hijabWASHINGTON — The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into a consent decree with the Board of Education of Berkeley School District 87 in Berkeley, Ill. that, if approved by the court, will resolve a religious accommodations lawsuit filed in December 2010.  In its lawsuit, the United States alleged that the school district violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of Safoorah Khan, a Muslim teacher at McArthur Middle School. “Employees should not have to choose between practicing their religion and their jobs,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The facts of this case show the consequences of an employer refusing to engage in any interactive process to understand and work with an employee to find an accommodation of the employee’s religious beliefs that will not cause undue hardship to the employer.  We are pleased that Berkeley School District has agreed to implement a training program that puts into place an interactive process to ensure that each request for a religious accommodation will be considered on a case-by-case basis and granted if it poses no undue hardship on the school district.” The government’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, alleged that Ms. Khan requested an unpaid leave of absence in December 2008 to perform Hajj, a pilgrimage required by her religion, Islam.  According to the complaint, Berkeley School District denied Ms. Khan a reasonable accommodation of her religious practice, compelling Ms. Khan to choose between her job and her religious beliefs, thus forcing her discharge.  The United States also alleged that the school district maintains a policy under which it refuses to grant leave to non-tenured teachers as an accommodation for their religious practices if the leave requested is not already provided for in the school district’s leave policy.  The lawsuit was based on a charge of discrimination filed by Ms. Khan with the Chicago District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  After investigating Ms. Khan’s charge, finding reasonable cause to believe that Berkeley School District had discriminated against Ms. Khan, and unsuccessfully attempting to conciliate the matter, the EEOC referred the charge to the Department of Justice.

Under the terms of the consent decree, Berkeley School District will pay $75,000 to Ms. Khan for lost back pay, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.  Berkeley School District also is required to develop and distribute a religious accommodation policy consistent with Title VII’s requirement to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs, practices and/or observances of all employees and prospective employees.  In addition, Berkeley School District is required to provide mandatory training on religious accommodation to all board of education members, supervisors, managers, administrators and human resources officials who participate in decisions on religious accommodation requests made by its employees and prospective employees.  This is the first lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice as a result of a pilot project designed to ensure vigorous enforcement of Title VII against state and local governmental employers by enhancing cooperation between the EEOC and the Civil Rights Division. “As the favorable resolution of this case demonstrates, closer collaboration between the EEOC and the Department of Justice will strengthen the enforcement of this nation’s civil rights laws,” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair of the EEOC.  “Our partnership is critical to ensuring that workplaces are free of bias.”  Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin or religion, and prohibits retaliation against an employee who opposes an unlawful employment practice, or because the employee has made a charge or participated in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under the Act.  More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp/index.html

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov

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Civil Society in South Africa Deplores Failure to Give Visa to Dalai Lama

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Johannesburg. 4 October 2011.  The South African government should stand by its founding values by granting a visa to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, urged civil society in South Africa today.

The Dalai Lama was due to visit South Africa from 6-8 October to attend the 80th birthday celebrations of fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was expected to deliver the inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace lecture at the University of the Western Cape. Delay in granting him a visa by the South African government has now resulted in him cancelling his trip to the country.

In 2009, the Dalai Lama was denied permission to visit South Africa under apparent pressure from the Chinese government which strongly opposes his support for the human rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people.

“In many regions of the world civil society members are being persecuted for their beliefs and impeded from engaging with the international community due to restrictive visa regimes,” said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. “… it is highly disturbing that this can happen in democratic South Africa, a number of whose leaders also had to wage their struggle for human rights in exile.”

Enhancing democracy and human rights as well as upholding justice and international law in relations between nations are important pillars of South Africa’s foreign policy. South Africa is also a founding member of the India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) trilateral of multi-ethnic and multicultural democracies, which is committed to the establishment of a new international architecture. Recent violent attacks on peaceful protestors by the police, proposed curbs on the freedom of information through impending legislation and the current controversy generated around the visit of the Dalai Lama are marring South Africa’s reputation as a vibrant democracy and human rights leader.

“It is untenable and hypocritical for the South African authorities to even consider denying the Dalai Lama a visa under pressure from a foreign government,” said Srinath.

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Over $150K Raised to Support Group’s Civil Rights Work

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

0703_john_espositoOn Saturday July 30, 2011, hundreds of community members, interfaith leaders, activists and public officials turned out for the nearly sold-out CAIR Texas Annual Banquet.

Some 400 people heard Muslim scholar Dr. John Esposito, Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, and founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service offer the keynote address.

Corey Saylor, CAIR Government Affairs Director gave an update of the many challenges facing the Muslim community, and how CAIR is addressing those issues nationally.

Rais Bhuiyan, one of the first hate crime victims post September 11, 2001, shared with attendees his near death experience and his journey of healing leading to compassion and mercy for his assailant, Mark Stroman, who was executed July 20th, despite Rais’ attempts to use lawsuits to intervene.

The banquets raised over $150,000 in contributions to support CAIR’s civil rights work.

CAIR Texas Executive Director Mustafaa Carroll states “We are grateful to God first and foremost, and to our community for its broad and unending support.”

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