Lawsuit: Belk fired woman for not wearing Santa hat

July 29, 2010 12:19:21 PM PDT
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing Belk of firing a woman because she wouldn't put on a Santa Claus hat.

The lawsuit claims the department store committed religious discrimination against Myra Jones-Abid because she is a Jehovah's Witness and her religion prohibits her from celebrating holidays, including Christmas.

According to the EEOC's suit, Jones-Abid worked in the gift wrap section of Belk's Crabtree Valley Mall store in Raleigh. In November 2008, she was told she had to wear the hat and an apron for the holiday season and she refused on religious grounds. The lawsuit says she was fired.

"An employee should not be forced to choose between her faith and her job," said EEOC attorney Lynette A. Barnes in a news release.

The EEOC says it tried to settle the case with Belk before filing the lawsuit which asks for back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Jones-Abid.

Belk issued the following statement Thursday:

"Belk does not tolerate unlawful discrimination of any type. The company strongly disagrees with Ms. Jones-Abid's allegations and intends to vigorously defend against her claims."

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