A health care provider will pay $75,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit involving a Pentecostal nurse whose request to wear a scrub skirt instead of pants was denied.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the practicing Apostolic Pentecostal Christian was hired by Wellpath LLC to provide services at the Central Texas Detention Facility in San Antonio.
After accepting the job in 2019, Malinda Babineaux told a Wellpath human resources employee that she preferred to wear a skirt due to her religious beliefs. Wellpath turned down her request and rescinded her job offer.
The EEOC first sought to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, but those efforts were unsuccessful.
Then the federal agency took legal action in September 2020, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination against religious beliefs. The lawsuit also points out that Babineaux had worn a scrub skirt in previous nursing jobs, including at a juvenile correctional facility.
As part of the settlement, Wellpath is required to provide back pay to the nurse, along with compensatory damages of $75,000. The company will also ensure that employees receive anti-discrimination training that includes attire and grooming.
“Under federal law, when a workplace rule conflicts with an employee’s sincerely held religious practice, an employer must attempt to find a workable solution,” said Philip Moss, trial attorney for the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “This settlement should underscore the importance of employers taking affirmative steps to comply with their obligations under anti-discrimination laws.”
Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Employers are required to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s religious beliefs unless it would pose an excessive burden.
Regional Attorney Robert Canino added, “The EEOC is pleased that in addition to a monetary settlement, Wellpath has agreed to training human resources employee at its headquarters and certain managers throughout Texas on anti-discrimination laws and providing accommodations, including matters related to dress and grooming based on religion.”