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March 18th, 2011
11:39 AM ET

Woman who says she was forced to wear Santa hat gets $55,000

From CNN Raleigh, North Carolina affiliate WRAL:

Belk Inc. has agreed to settle a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit that alleged the chain's Crabtree Valley Mall department store fired a woman because of her religious beliefs.

The lawsuit alleges that Myra Jones-Abid was working as a gift wrapper at Belk's in November 2008 when store managers ordered her to wear a Santa hat and Christmas-themed apron during the holiday season.

Jones-Abid is a Jehovah's Witness, and her religious practices prohibit her from celebrating holidays like Christmas, according to the lawsuit.

Read the full story about the lawsuit at WRAL.com

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Money & Faith • North Carolina • United States

soundoff (224 Responses)
  1. Chris

    If the employer wanted her to wear a costume they should have called her a "cast member" or a "model". That is pretty much the way to do it then you can fire them for not having the right "look" or even not fitting a certain size dress or the wrong hair color. A lot depends on the state. many states many allow termination at will, for no cause.

    March 23, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  2. Maria

    Jehovahs witness use the system to their conveniece. No, they don't want to have holidays or say the pledge of allegiance but they have no problem citing 1st Amendment rights in going door to door pushing their religion down people's throats or getting out of their responsibilties as American citizens by showing respect to the flag. Now they can sue people for doing what is essential part of THEIR JOB???? Don't like it, then find another job I say.

    March 23, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  3. This is the USA

    ok, allow her to remove the hat and put in an 8 hour shift on Dec 25th. See what her thoughts are then.

    March 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  4. Kerry

    If this person had been getting unemployment, she would have lost her benefits for refusing/leaving a job, ANY job, for such a reason. And most readers would be criticizing her for refusing a job in this economy. So her accepting a job, even a part-time, seasonal job (and we aren't told if that WAS the criteria for the job – she may have been a cashier assigned to the gift-wrapping desk just for the season), was what we would expect of a responsible citizen trying to support themselves or a family in this difficult economy. It wasn't a "given" that she'd get any compensation; all the store had to do was allow her to do her job without wearing a Santa hat. At least she wasn't sitting at home collecting welfare; she was out trying to earn a living!

    March 22, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  5. Larry

    It's not OK for her to wear a Santa hat because of her religion, but it's OK with her to wrap Christmas gifts? Seems like a typical double standard a lot of these JWs like to live.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Larry

      You see, my dad employed this JW to work as his office secretary for a number of years. One day, he realizes she stole around $300,000 from his company over a 5 year span. She was against celebrating Christmas and Easter and birth days because of her "religion," but it was totally cool for her to steal thousands of dollars from my dad's business. Well she got hers as she is sitting in jail while her life crumbles around her. Christmas doesn't seem like such a bad thing now, does it JW?

      March 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • scott501

      Feel sorry for you if thats not true. slander is costly

      March 27, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  6. Be Proud America

    Hmm, she was working as a gift wrapper in November which means she was probably using Chirstmas wrapping paper on the gifts she was wrapping thus helping celebrate Christmas, so if she was really true to her beliefs, she wouldn't have taken the job in the first place.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  7. If she was a MUSLIM

    Guess what would happen if she would be of Muslim belief...the news would be "Muslim Terrorist planned to sabotage the xmas celebration".....won't it be????? Search CNN stories and u would find the same thing there....

    March 22, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  8. steve

    You guys are all INSANE. She worked as a SEASONAL GIFT wrapper then complains about not being able to celebrate christmas. Its like being a vegetarian working at KFC. It doesn't make sense.

    FYI the santa hat could have been part of the UNIFORM. I had to work at a chain that required Aprons. I HATE cooking, should I sue? You people are all INSANE!!! America hands out lawsuits like they are going out of style. WAKE UP!

    March 22, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  9. Rebecca

    Completely ridiculous. Religion being used to scam people out of millions of dollars.

    March 21, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  10. WTHeck

    Religious folks baffle me sometimes... Wear the darn hat and enjoy the spirit of the holidays. I am sure your "God" will understand.

    March 21, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  11. sophistocat

    .wikipedia UNIT 731 ...there is the answer...

    March 21, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  12. sophistocat

    SAD so many Stewpitt Folks ..Commenting ..iN A COURT CASE ...the LOOSER is liable for COSTs also ...DUHH blondie shows your level of intellect ...go pay for your payed programing TV ...dummy

    March 21, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  13. JackoB

    I wonder how many times she's done this. Sounds like a great scheme.

    March 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • jackie

      AMEN AMEN !!! LOL SUCKERS 1!

      March 21, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • Suzy

      Yeah, I'm thinking it's about time I change religions.

      March 21, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  14. T-party

    x/mas is about Santa,Reindeer,gifts,lights,decorations,party's ....not a religious holiday for me. I am agnostic the lady should not have gotten 55 cents..

    March 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  15. Ace

    And who do you really thinks pays out this money? The store will only pass this along to the consumers......

    March 20, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  16. doe22us

    $55,000 live with it.. all you naysayers should get over it she was unfairly fired, it doesnt matter what religion she is. This happens when you have all sorts of "`special" people around with no common sense

    March 20, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  17. mysticarts

    I was raised as a JW ..........but absolutely not one as an adult!! What she did was wrong in the JW book of rules. She took advantage of the situation by taking a job in gift wrapping knowing FULL well she would have to wrap holiday gifts. ALL holidays are against the religion even Kwanzaa, Hanuka, birthday etc. The department store was stupid because it would of been in their best interest to move her to another department that didn't require holiday marketing such as clothing or jewelry. I wonder if the elders of her congregation cheered her on during this lawsuit OR slapped her on the hand for being so stupid and not following the RULES.

    March 20, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • scott501

      It didnt say she was hired to wrap gifts..you are making that part up. Stores hire a lot of people at Christmas and place them in jobs later.

      March 27, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  18. A Noun

    They should have just put her in the stockroom. It was the firing that led to the lawsuit, not the garb.

    March 20, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  19. Gatto

    There's a lot of information missing here. If she was hired as a gift wrapper for the holiday season, she would have also expected to decorate packages with Santas, elves, pagan seasonal symbols like holly, and probably a lot of things that refer to the Christian tradition of Christmas – angels, doves, 3 wise men and stuff like that. I think anybody going into a job like that would have a reasonable expectation to play their part in the store's holiday sales push with all the associated flamboyance. On the other hand, was she hired simply as a clerk or other unrelated position then shifted over to gift wrapping? Just not enough info here for someone looking at it thoughtfully to come to a conclusion.

    March 20, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Ginamero

      I agreeeeeeee......

      March 20, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Prof ANON

      Agree.

      April 5, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  20. John

    I am not a Christian but where the law is concerned in this case, the store management made a very stupid decision and is paying for it. The hat was not a standard part of the uniform I imagine and was not a requirement of employment or a necessity of fulfilling the performance of her job duties. Her beliefs should have been respected.

    March 20, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Ginamero

      Yet, her beliefs are not to celebrate birthdays or holidays and she picks a job that is all about giving gifts and wrapping them in beautiful paper to give in celebration of another....I smell a Jehovah rat who probably took this job just to wait out a pay day. I'm not religious...do not believe in God or a higher power yet I've hidden Easter Eggs, gone to a Shabbat, was a matron at an Indian wedding. I chose to do those things and she chose her job....it was Christmas, she was asked to wear a hat and apron. If she had been the only one told to do so then she was right, if everyone had been told to do so she was wrong. She's not special, she's an employee.

      March 20, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Lise Quinn

      She wasn't 'celebrating Christmas' – she was wrapping presents. it's a uniform her employer asked her to wear. Albeit, they didn't 'need' to fire her, but I do not believe her religious lines were crossed, she was not celebrating the birth of Jesus, nor any other religious observances connected with that day.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • fred bazzeeda

      Dude, what the hell was she doing that job wrapping presents on something she says is against her religion? She shouldn't have taken the job. Simple as that. I am surprised that she didn't sue as well about the job requiring her to wrap presents.
      Only in sue-happy America.
      Can't believe that common sense couldn't see paste that hypocrisy.
      Idiot awards need to be given out here....

      March 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.