Pentecostal Christian sues food chain over dress code
Kaetoya Watkins won’t wear jeans because her religion says no. Yet she applied for a job with Mississippi restaurant chain called Georgia Blue which insists that jeans are part of its dress code.
The lawsuit alleges that the restaurant’s negative reaction to Watkins’ wearing a skirt violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Georgia Blue from discriminating against employees who need religious accommodations, lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for Watkins.
As a part of their modesty guidelines, some Pentecostal denominations, like the United Pentecostal Church, advise women not to wear pants. And Kaetoya Watkins, a Christian minister whose parents Sam and Carla Watkins lead the Archangel Healing Temple Church in Natchez, Mississippi, follows that modesty tradition.
According to the lawsuit filed last week, in October 2015 Georgia Blue selected Watkins to work as a restaurant server.
When Watkins told Georgia Blue of her Apostolic Pentecostal religious belief that women should wear only skirts or dresses and asked for the accommodation of wearing a blue skirt, she was told that the company’s dress code requires servers to wear blue jeans. She was advised that “the owner” would “not stray away from” the company dress code.
EEOC Birmingham Regional Attorney Marsha L Rucker said:
Most religious accommodations are not burdensome, such as allowing an employee to wear a skirt instead of pants. It would have been simple to allow Ms Watkins to wear a long skirt at work. No worker should be obligated to choose between making a living and following her religious convictions.
Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, further noted:
Under federal law, employers have a duty to provide an accommodation to allow an employee to practice his or her religion when the employer can do so without undue hardship on the operation of the company. This case shows the EEOC is committed to combatting religious discrimination in the workplace.
J William Manuel, a lawyer for Georgia Blue, insisted in a statement that the company did not discriminate against the preacher’s daughter due to her Pentecostal beliefs.