Thursday, May 25, 2017

Long Skirts, Title II vs. Title VII

In Jalal v. Lucille Roberts Health Clubs, Inc., (SD NY, May 22, 2017), a New York federal district court dismissed a suit brought by a Jewish woman against a health club which refused to allow her to wear a long skirt while using gym equipment.  In the suit, plaintiff Yosefa Jalal alleged that by refusing to allow her to dress as required by her religious beliefs, the health club violated the public accommodation provisions (Title II) of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The court disagreed, saying in part:
Here, plaintiff fails to allege facts plausibly supporting a minimal inference of discriminatory motivation. Although plaintiff contends that she was treated differently than other Lucille Roberts members on the basis of her religion, the factual allegations only suggest that she was treated differently because she insisted on wearing an article of clothing that, according to defendant, was inappropriate gym attire.... Nowhere does the complaint allege that defendant selectively enforced its dress code against Jewish women.... There is no indication ... that claims grounded solely in disparate impact—and lacking any allegation of discriminatory intent—are cognizable under Title II.
Consumerist reports on the decision.

Meanwhile, JTA reported yesterday on a religious discrimination in employment lawsuit filed in New York state court.  Plaintiff Hadas Goldfarb, an Orthodox Jewish woman who was hired by New York Presbyterian Hospital as a paramedic, was dismissed when when she insisted on wearing a skirt instead of pants as required by the hospital's dress code.  Unlike the public accommodation section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the employment discrimination provisions (Title VII) require employers to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious exercise. [Thanks to Steven H. Sholk for the lead.]