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Greyhound settles EEOC religious discrimination lawsuit over treatment of Muslim driver

Greyhound Lines Inc. will pay $45,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2019.

The Dallas-based bus carrier and the EEOC signed off on the settlement Monday in U.S. District Court in Maryland. The lawsuit accused Greyhound of failing to accommodate the religious beliefs of a bus driver who wished to wear a religious garment.

The two-year consent decree that ended the lawsuit also prohibits Greyhound leadership from discriminating based on religion. The company will provide training on religious accommodations and will report to the EEOC on how it handles religious accommodation requests.

Greyhound was accused in the lawsuit of denying a Muslim woman hired for a driver position at its Baltimore facility permission to wear an abaya, “a loose-fitting ankle-length overgarment that conceals the outline of the wearer’s body,” the EEOC said in a news release.

The woman wore her religious garments, including a headscarf and abaya, to her job interview and asked if they would be a problem, the lawsuit claims. The company said it would allow her to wear the garments and offered her a job, according to the complaint.

The company then told the woman that the abaya posed a safety hazard, the EEOC alleged, and advised that she would have to wear a knee-length skirt and pants instead. The woman declined the proposal and withdrew from the company’s training program, the EEOC said.

The woman had obtained all necessary certifications and worked for a year driving tractor-trailers while wearing the abaya, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit sought an injunction preventing Greyhound from discriminating based on religion, back pay for the woman and punitive damages. The financial settlement includes about $4,000 in back pay and another $41,000 in compensatory damages, according to court filings.

A spokesperson for Greyhound did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. The company denied discriminating against the woman in its response to the EEOC’s complaint.

The company also sought summary judgment, but U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander denied Greyhound’s request in August.

“I conclude that the EEOC has established a prima facie case that defendant (Greyhound) failed to reasonably accommodate Hadith’s religious beliefs,” Hollander wrote.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in June 2019 after first trying to reach a settlement without litigation, according to the news release.

“Our right to exercise our religious beliefs is one of our most precious freedoms,” EEOC Philadelphia District Office Director Jamie R. Williamson said in the release. “This settlement should send a strong message to all employers about the need to provide a religious accommodation. Most religious accommodations can be done easily and without incurring an undue hardship.”