Published: 13:00 GMT Daylight Time - Friday 21 October 2011
USA: School district fined $75,000 for denying teacher leave for Mecca pilgrimage
Country/Region: United States
A Muslim woman in Chicago has won her legal battle against a school district after being denied unpaid leave to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca during the school year.
The U.S. Department of Justice has settled Safoorah Khan’s religious discrimination lawsuit against the Berkeley School District, forcing the district to pay $75,000 in lost back pay, compensatory damages and legal fees.
The district will also be required to develop a policy to accommodate religions that is consistent with the Civil Rights Acts, to ensure that nothing similar will happen again.
On 11 September 2008, Ms Khan, who is now 30, requested unpaid leave of absence from her teaching post at MacArthur Middle School to perform the hajj in December that year. The hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that Muslims are required to perform at least once in their lifetime if they are able-bodied and can afford to do so. After being denied permission, Ms Khan resigned and went to Mecca.
“I’m glad that we settled and I hope this does set a precedent,” Ms Khan said. “I hope they realise that hajj means a lot to Muslims and there will be more and more people taking the trip. I hope this helps people and their employers to accommodate Muslims and their requests.”
According to the settlement, the school district must also provide mandatory training on religious accommodation to all board of education members and school supervisors.
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Read Chicago Sun-Times article Woman wins right to Mecca trip
Read www.businessinsurance.com article School district settles probe of handling of Muslim employee’s pilgrimage
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