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EEOC Files A Lawsuit Against United Airlines for Religious Discrimination

August 6th, 2020 Miheret Hasenu

Last month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against United Airlines on the basis of religious discrimination. In an article written in New York and posted on JDSupra, a Buddhist pilot was diagnosed with alcohol dependency and had to obtain a new medical certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In order to do so, United Airlines conducts a program for pilots who struggle with substance abuse, which requires regular attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The pilot, however, refused to attend AA due to its interference with his religious beliefs. Instead, he requested to attend a Buddhism-based peer support group that coincided with his religious preferences, which United failed to accept. Therefore, the pilot was denied the FAA medical certificate that would allow him to fly again.  

What Issues are Included in the Lawsuit? 

Following this turn of events, the EEOC filed the lawsuit against United for their lack of religious accommodation for employees, which is prohibited under federal law. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey after failing to settle. According to a statement given by EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffery Burstein, “employers have the affirmative obligation to modify their policies to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.” The District Directory also added that the EEOC is “ready to protect employees” from religious discrimination. This case, unfortunately, is not the first employment lawsuit to be filed against United. In 2018, the EEOC sued the airline for alleged violations of sexual harassment. According to the lawsuit, a captain shared a sexually explicit picture of a flight attendant on multiple websites and shared the flight attendant’s personal information. 

Federal and State Laws Against Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion. This also includes job-segregation, such as preventing religious employees from working in positions where they have to interact with customers due to business worries. Additionally, the law also states that employers must accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of employees, “unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operation of the employer’s business.”  New York State not only enforces this law but also passed a statewide bill that amends the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). The new law makes it unlawful for employers to “impose upon an employee as a condition of retaining employment any terms or conditions that would require that person to violate or forgo sincerely held practice of their religion.”

Seek Legal Assistance Today 

If you have experienced religious discrimination in the workplace, seek legal assistance from the Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.