SW Legal studies in Business

Police Department May Bar Officer from Wearing Muslim Headscarf
Description

Appeals court held that the Philadelphia police department policy of religious neutrality, which was enforced by its policy of no religious ornamentation or clothing, did not discriminate  against a Muslim officer who wanted to wear a headscarf when on duty. To allow an exception would create an undue hardship on department operations.

Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words

Religious Discrimination; Uniforms; Religious Ornamentation

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Kimberlie Webb is a Muslim who worked for the City of Philadelphia as a police officer since 1995. In 2003, she requested permission to wear a headscarf while in uniform and on duty. The headscarf or Hijaab is a traditional head covering worn by Muslim women. Her request was denied as police rules prescribe what may be worn. Religious symbols or garb are not approved. She wore the headscarf anyway and was sent home. After another incident, she was cited for insubordination and suspended for 13 days. Webb filed a complaint of religious discrimination.

Decision

Affirmed. The police department would suffer undue hardship under Title VII if forced to permit police officers to wear religious clothing or ornamentation with their uniforms. The discipline imposed on Webb was consistent with department policy. She cannot establish a claim of religious discrimination. The police department is neutral with respect to religious matters as it deals with the public, and officers work together in a cooperative manner.

Citation Webb v. City of Philadelphia, 562 F.3d 256 (3rd Cir., 2009)

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