WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 LAWFUEL – Legal Newswire — The Justice Department
announced today that a federal court in Manhattan approved a consent decree between the Justice Department and the New York State Department of
Correctional Services (DOCS). The consent decree settles the Justice
Department’s lawsuit alleging that DOCS failed to accommodate the religious practices of correctional officers as required by federal law.
The suit, filed on March 15, 2007, arose out of a case in which a
Muslim correctional worker at a halfway house had for years been permitted to wear a prayer cap, or kuffi, but in 2005 was told he must remove the
skull cap while at work. The suit alleged that there was no policy in place for DOCS to review requests for reasonable accommodation of religious practices as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under the settlement approved today, DOCS must keep in place a process
under which employees seeking religious accommodations to workplace
policies, whether uniform issues, Sabbath and religious holiday
observances, or other issues, are given an individualized review and
determination. Denial of a requested reasonable accommodation may only be
made after a detailed consideration of the impact of the accommodation on
performance of job duties. The Muslim corrections officer whose case
prompted the suit has been permitted to wear a dark blue or black kuffi
with his uniform while working at the halfway house since shortly after the Justice Department notified DOCS that it would file suit.
“Today’s settlement underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the religious liberties guaranteed by federal law for all
Americans,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights
Division Grace Chung Becker.
“Federal law prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of
religion, and requires reasonable accommodation of employees’ religious
practices,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
Michael J. Garcia. “We are pleased that DOCS has agreed to give fair
consideration to its uniformed officers’ requests for such accommodations.”