Agency's Refusal to Refer Muslim for Job

June 23, 2010

Asthma Suliman, a Muslim who as part of her faith wears a khimar, or headscarf, applied to Kelly Services for temporary work. Suliman was told about Nahan, a Kelly client that operates a plant containing large machines with fast-moving parts. Because Nahan’s dress policy prohibits headwear and loose-fitting clothing on the plant floor for safety reasons, Kelly told Suliman that she would have to take off her headscarf to work at Nahan. Suliman refused to remove the headscarf, so Kelly advised her that they could not refer her for the job. Kelly offered, but Suliman refused, at least seven other job referrals.

Suliman then filed a charge of discrimination alleging religious bias. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Kelly on Suliman’s behalf.

The trial court granted Kelly’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed Suliman’s claims. Suliman did not experience an adverse employment action, Kelly reasonably accommodated Suliman by offering her other jobs, and, given a safety-based dress policy, Nahan could not have reasonably accommodated Suliman without undue hardship.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit agreed with these rulings. The court held that “an employment agency should [not] be held liable if the agency has no reason to believe that the employer’s claim of bona fide occupations qualification is without substance.”

Moreover, there was no proof that Nahan’s dress policy was a pretext for discrimination against employees needing religious accommodation or that Kelly knew the policy was pretextual. EEOC v. Kelly Services Inc., 8th Cir. No. 08-3880 (3/25/10).

Impact: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not require employment agencies to show that the referring employer would suffer an undue hardship if it had to accommodate a temporary worker.

Workforce Management, June 2010, p. 10 -- Subscribe Now!

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.