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Healthcare provider pays $75K to Pentecostal nurse denied religious exemption not to wear scrub pants

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A Tennessee-based healthcare provider will pay $75,000 to a Pentecostal nurse to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit that says the company rescinded her job offer over her refusal to wear scrub pants while at work as her religious beliefs require her to dress modestly.

Wellpath, LLC, a provider of health services in correctional facilities, will pay $75,000 and provide “significant equitable relief” to Malinda Babineaux, who is a practicing Apostolic Pentecostal Christian, to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency said in a statement.

According to the lawsuit, Wellpath hired the nurse to work in the GEO Central Texas Correctional Facility in downtown San Antonio, but she told a human resources employee of Wellpath that she would wear a scrub skirt instead of scrub pants at work due to her religious beliefs. Wellpath denied the request and revoked her job offer.

The EEOC said the nurse had worn a scrub skirt for several years as she worked at other correctional facilities.

“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,” Philip Moss, a trial attorney at the agency’s San Antonio Field Office, said. “This settlement should underscore the importance of employers taking affirmative steps to comply with their obligations under anti-discrimination laws.”

Title VII prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would pose an undue hardship.

The EEOC first sought to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, but the efforts failed. The agency then filed a suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, in September 2020.

The settlement requires that the company pay back pay and compensatory damages of $75,000 to the former employee and provide for injunctive relief, including anti-discrimination training and distribution of a notice informing employees of their rights.

“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,” Regional Attorney Robert Canino said.

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