Mississippi restaurant chain sued for not letting Christian employee wear a skirt instead of jeans

Published 9:51 am Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Mississippi woman whose religious beliefs prevent her from wearing pants or jeans says a restaurant rescinded a job offer after refusing to accommodate her dress code request, according to a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit filed this week.

Kaetoya Watkins was hired by Georgia Blue—a Mississippi restaurant chain with locations in Flowood, Madison, Hattiesburg and Brookhaven—in October 2015. The restaurant’s dress code requires servers to wear blue jeans, leading Watkins to notify the company of her Apostolic Pentecostal beliefs that women should wear skirts or dresses and “requested the reasonable accommodation of wearing a blue skirt,” according to the EEOC’s suit.

Georgia Blue allegedly denied Watkins’ request and rescinded her job offer, saying “the owner” would “not stray away” from the restaurant’s dress code.

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The EEOC cites the behavior as a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to provide reasonable religious accommodations.

“Most religious accommodations are not burdensome, such as allowing an employee to wear a skirt instead of pants,” said EEOC Birmingham Regional Attorney Marsha L. Rucker in a press release. “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.”

The EEOC seeks to prohibit Georgia Blue from religious-accommodation discrimination, along with “lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for Watkins.”