Local News

Belk to pay $55,000 to settle religious discrimination suit

Posted March 16, 2011

— Belk Inc. has agreed to settle a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit that alleged the chain's Crabtree Valley Mall department store fired a woman because of her religious beliefs.

The lawsuit alleges that Myra Jones-Abid was working as a gift wrapper at Belk's in November 2008 when store managers ordered her to wear a Santa hat and Christmas-themed apron during the holiday season.

Jones-Abid is a Jehovah's Witness, and her religious practices prohibit her from celebrating holidays like Christmas, according to the lawsuit. When she explained why she couldn't wear the hat and apron, store managers fired her, the suit states.

Under the settlement, Belk will pay Jones-Abid $55,000, remove references to the dispute from her personnel file and provide a neutral employment reference for her. The company also agreed to implement a policy to accommodate employees' religious beliefs and to provide annual training for managers.

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  • bluelakelight2010 Mar 25, 2011

    I agree with the verdict with respect to her employment records, however, it is beyond reason that she should be rewarded money beyond a couple weeks of compensation. I hope the reward is decreased or removed if Belk appeals the case.

  • christyc23 Mar 17, 2011

    Some folks making comments here express that maybe she took the job with the intention of trying to sue later. The article says she was working as a gift wrapper in November when she was fired. It doesn't say how long she had been an employee before this or if she was only temp. My question is how could she have possibly known ahead that Belk managers would fire her instead of doing the reasonable thing like giving her other job duties until the Christmas season was over. Surely Belk needed many extra seasonal employees during such a busy time. I believe info must have been excluded in this article for the lawsuit to be worthy of $55k. It was unfortunate that the managers couldn't have worked something out & avoided such a costly lawsuit. Yes, $55,000 seems extensive (that's lawyers for ya), but for any of you who profess a religion of any kind & like your job, this lawsuit was also a protection for you should your religious beliefs be questioned as a reason for your termination.

  • sarahsoandso Mar 17, 2011

    @bubbasu1 "The employee knew what her beliefs are and should have not accepted the position in the first place." Are you kidding me? She had no idea that refusing to wear a santa hat would get her fired.

  • bubbasu1 Mar 17, 2011

    What a scam!! I have nothing againat anyone's religion. This employee knew what her beliefs are and should have not accepted the position in the first place. When one chooses to have certain beliefs they should not expect to be catered to. It is like taking a job in a nut processing facility then telling the employer you are allergic to nuts! We are not suppose to wish folks a Merry Christmas cause it offends some other religion these are the type of things that give religions a bad name. Yes the employee is entiteld to work , yes Belks has the right to require said employee to dress for the part at Christmas, after all Belks is there to provide a service/products/make money. When my kids were in school there were a couple of Jehovah Witness students, when a birthday or holiday was celebrated those student either sat in the hall or went to different room until the party was over. If one wishes to be employed then it is up to them to find employment that fits their life s

  • nowyouhaveapopup Mar 17, 2011

    Since when was December a month exclusively for Christmas gifts? Don't people exchange gifts for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holidays? I am shocked and saddened by the actions of Belk. I am surrounded by Jehovah's Witnesses in my workplace and I LOVE it. Their religion isn't a cult. They are Christians.
    To Belk and any other business not interested in hiring Jehovah's Witnesses, send them my way! To all of you who have left hateful and ignorant comments, I'm giving you a pop up. If you don't know what that means, good luck getting a great spa service in Raleigh. To all you Witnesses who might read this please know that the nasty comments are made by an ignorant few. Most people don't share their views.
    - A Lutheran in Raleigh

  • Malaki Mar 16, 2011

    I believe Belk employs gift wrappers year-round. However, if she truly had a problem with celebrating Christmas she should have refused to wrap Christmas gifts. I guess she decided to pick what she didn't want to do. Another stupid lawsuit.

  • turtledove Mar 16, 2011

    Santa isn't a religious figure. But then again Christmas isn't religious either. Its origin is Pagan.

  • delilahk2000 Mar 16, 2011

    SHE SHOULD NOT HAVE WON. IF SHE DOES NOT BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS THEN WHY WAS SHE WRAPPING GIFTS......MAYBE I SHOULD LIE ABOUT SOMETHING AND SUE TO FOR MONEY I DO NOT EARN. HOPE THE LAWYERS GOT A BIG PART OF THE MONEY....

  • demo7691 Mar 16, 2011

    When did Santa become a relgious figure. I would have fired her too.

  • jkca Mar 16, 2011

    That's probably the most expensive Santa hat on record!

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