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DOJ Sues School District for Allegedly Refusing to Accommodate Teacher’s Pilgrimage to Mecca

Posted Dec 14, 2010 9:00 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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By refusing to consider a request by a Muslim school teacher for nearly three weeks of unpaid leave that would allow her to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, a suburban Chicago school district violated her civil rights, the U.S. Department of Justice contends.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago, the DOJ alleges that the Berkeley School District violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to reasonably accommodate Safoorah Khan's religious beliefs, reports the Associated Press.

Every devout Muslim is supposed to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, once in a lifetime. Hence, Khan quit her job in order to make the trip, the suit alleges.

The district did not respond to a request for comment for the article, but, according to the suit, took the position that the leave sought by Khan was unrelated to her employment and wasn't provided for under its teacher contract.

The suit is the first brought under a new cooperative program between the DOJ and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the article notes.

It seeks back pay, compensatory damages and reinstatement for Khan, as well as the implementation of a policy by the school district that provides for reasonable accommodation of employees' religious beliefs.

A DOJ press release provides additional details.

Additional coverage:

Arab News: "US school sued over denial of Haj leave"

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