Naimi Mnsari began working for Paradigm Packaging earlier this year as a vitamin bottler. Mnsari’s Muslim beliefs require her to wear a religious headscarf known as a hijab. This, however, conflicted with Paradigm’s safety policies, which prohibit employees from wearing items on their head. After her manager confronted her about her headscarf, Mnsari became so uncomfortable that she could not return to the job.
There are many jobs, such as operating machinery or other heavy equipment, that have inherent risks associated with them. For these dangerous jobs, employers often have the right to establish policies to keep their workers safe and to prevent workplace injuries. In addition to these physical protections, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) guarantees that workers have the right to a discrimination-free workplace.
As one of its provisions, the NJLAD prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to violate a religious belief in order to keep his or her job. In instances where safety precautions and religious beliefs come into direct conflict, the employer often has the responsibility to make reasonable accommodations to allow the employee to act according to his or her religious beliefs.
Mnsari claims that when her manager confronted her, she explained that she must wear the headscarf as part of her religious beliefs. Her lawsuit also states that she had worked the previous day with the headscarf on and that no one had informed her about the company’s policy. Despite this, Mnsari claims that her manager made no offer of reasonable accommodation to her and that, instead, he demanded that she remove the headscarf immediately.
Now, Mnsari thinks that Paradigm should be held liable for its act of religious discrimination. She has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which will look into her claims. Pending the EEOC’s investigative findings, Mnsari may choose to bring a lawsuit against Paradigm for its alleged violations of the LAD.
Photo: Rama Ossama, "Her Eyes," https://www.flickr.com/photos/ranoush/2109491320/