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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. blessedgeek

    You DON'T NEED to wear a Santa hat to perform gift wrapping.

    If you are employed to supply firewood to a Buddhist monastery and the monastery required you to chant "Amitabha" while loading firewood into the monastery courtyard, but you being a devout evangelical christian refuses to chant. And because of that the monastery terminated your contract to supply firewood. How about that?

    March 28, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  2. uos_spo6

    She's offended by having to wear a Santa hat but I'm supposed to be cool with her knocking on my door at 10am on a weekend?????

    You're on my porch lady, get a life. If you showed up wearing a santa hat I might not slam the door in your face laughing at your gullibility.

    March 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  3. Mephisto1

    This is what religion is all about–taking a few ancient texts and twisting them around to suit your own needs. I should start a religion that prohibits work. Then I could sue every corporation I can and be a millionaire.

    March 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  4. Mephisto1

    Did Michael Jackson ever put out a Christmas record?

    March 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  5. Joe

    I dont agree with all of this. It's like someone (and i know a few) that stated they were conciences objectors when it came to going to war....Hmmmm...but they did not mind going to target practice and learning what to do and how to do when it came to combat, and get paid for it....

    March 28, 2011 at 6:35 am |
  6. cj

    I hate that this POS sued, but the employer was asking for it by firing her that very same day. Stupid.

    March 27, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • scott501

      Sad that you would call a lady any lady a POS She is probably a nice hard working person. Her request was reasonable. Do you know law better than the judge?

      March 27, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  7. rubby

    my boss hired me for a job. She assumed that I would come on time to the job. Nowhere during the interview did I say I would arrive to work on time. I should sue the company.

    There are certain expectations that an employer has. If you are told to wear a hat because that is the image that the company is promoting to sell, so that they generate revenue to pay your wages, then do it. Or else start your own company where you call the shots. I hope the company appeals.

    Ya don't wanna play by the rules, then get outta there.

    March 27, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • scott501

      yo dont understand that America is based on religious freedom. you maybe willing to give that up but i am not. your analogy has nothing to do w/ this case so i think laws are above your head

      March 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  8. Suzanne

    And here in Cali we have the Muslim woman who decided after being employed at Disneyland for 2 1/2 yrs she needed to wear her hijab to work. She was offered employment in an alternate position since a scarf wasn't part of the costume. She declined the offer and sued. Amazingly she decided she needed to wear her scarf as part of her religion after her US citizenship exam.

    March 27, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  9. scott501

    Belks broke the law. You people are minimizing what the USA stands for Freedom of Religion. She was comfortable wrapping gifts..its her personal decision. Belks could have let the childish hat go. What other rights do people want to take away?

    March 27, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  10. Sarah

    She was working as a gift wrapper. How is wrapping gifts any different from wearing a Santa hat? No holidays, no gifts, no hats. She shouldn't have been working there. Doesn't make sense.

    March 26, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • RC

      You really think that wrapping presents means you are celebrating that holiday? So If I buy a birthday present and the cashier wraps it in a nice little box, that I (the cashier) just celebrated your birthday with you? So I guess that means you think everyone that makes candy corn celebrates Halloween and everyone who makes candy canes celebrate Chistmas too.

      Gift wrapping for someone else no matter the occasion is just a job. Wearing a hat and clothes that directly implies "hey look at me, I am in the Christmas spirit" that shows I am celebrating that holiday.

      April 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  11. Dan

    I'll wear whatever you want me to wear for $55,000.

    March 26, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  12. Nat

    Nowhere in the article does it say that this job was seasonal only or that it was only for wrapping Xmas gifts. All it says is that she was hired to work in the gift wrapping dept. It was wrong for her boss to force her to wear a Santa hat and apron and it was wrong for them to fire her. And her religion didn't tell her to file a lawsuit. That is a personal decision. I do think that amount awarded was a bit much.

    March 26, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  13. Religous fath gets to dictate company policy

    Religion is a choice. Discriminating against somebody for their choice in religion is no different than discriminating against somebody for any other choice they make: such as whether or not they chose to be a felon. There shouldn't even be a lawsuit here.

    But the law disagrees. The law says employers can't fire you if you refuse to do something as long as you say its in your religion. The law says employers can't fire you for it, even if you break the law refusing to do something (like Muslims refusing to serve disabled persons with guide dogs). So not only can you be required to hire a crazy, you can be punished for doing it.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • scott501

      sounds like in that RARE situation the blind person is going to have to take another cab.

      March 27, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  14. Simon

    Good for her. We have to keep teaching employers that they have a responsibility to their employees.

    March 25, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Religous fath gets to dictate company policy

      Absolutely. So I'll ask you the same question I'm asking others.

      When a cab company has a Muslim driver that refuses to carry a blind person with a guide dog (which is a very real issue right now), what do you do?
      Remember that refusing to pick up that disabled person is illegal, and will get you sued.
      Remember that refusing to hire a Muslim to drive your cab is illegal, and will get you sued.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  15. lizazabc

    Funny – but she could take money for wrapping Christmas presents. Funny how that works.

    March 25, 2011 at 5:28 am |
    • Religous fath gets to dictate company policy

      What you are willing to do to make money has nothing to do with how good of a person you are.

      Just ask the Catholic church.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  16. Chris

    If everything checks out I think shes in the right. If she really is that religion and thats really a tenant, then no one should force someone to wear something like that.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Cyril

      She is not being forced, she is being told that if she chooses to not do the job required by them, then they choose to not pay her money. What is unfair about that?

      March 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • DanIAm247

      She didn't have to accept the job to wrap presents for a "religious" holiday.

      March 25, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  17. Cyril

    Comrades,
    Don't forget that this suit was brought, not by the employee, but by us, you and me, through our Federal representatives in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Their mission appears to be to make every business feel like the Post Office.
    Anyone supporting this decision, and the judges and bureaucrats who effected it, has clearly never had an employee. What if you hired a carpenter to help you build your family's shelter for the winter and he informed you later that he was prohibited by his religion from using power tools? (Yes, this exists right here in Mid America.) And what if you knew that with a hand saw he simply couldn't finish your family's shelter by winter? Do you think it would be unfair to tell him that you needed to hire someone else who could help your family? Should you be sued and fined for saying that you needed to replace him with someone who could do the job you needed done?
    You might say that it's different because a department store is probably a great evildoer, but even evil corporations support many many families and keep them sheltered from the winter.
    Employment is a contract, you agree to do what they ask and they agree to pay you. You are always free to go work somewhere else.
    Should a person with a vegetarian religion be fired for refusing to sell hamburgers or pork products at a McDonald's, or should McDonald's be forced to let them only sell salads?
    Some religions don't allow the paying or charging of interest on money. Should banks and credit card companies be forced to hire them? Just how would that work out?
    Be reasonable, these are just regular people making the decisions they think best to try stay open by appearing festive at Christmas time.
    It's not business versus people, it's just people....on both sides.

    March 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  18. Stefan

    Why does our system keep rewarding people for being stupid? I need to find somebody rich to sue for something ridiculously stupid so that I can get a slice of this pie!

    March 24, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  19. noname

    She shouldn't have taken the job as a gift wrapper or she should've told them I cannot wrap presents, it would be considered taking part in Christmas.

    This is lame.

    March 24, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  20. Sean

    The same religion that prohibits her to celebrate holidays like Christmas (I don't think doing something required by work is celebrating a holiday it called keeping her job) allows her to file a law suit and take 55K? And the settlement amount is about what a part time gift wrapper would make in about 10 years. I wonder if all 55K goes to coffers of the church? What a joke.

    March 24, 2011 at 6:44 am |
    • scott501

      I dont think anyone on here understands that of the 55k she probably nets 33k after taxes but owed her attorney 18k for the contingency fee so she is left w/ approx 14k of back pay. The people that trash this idea are forgetting the America was founded on freedom of religion and you want to give that away. Belks could have let her do her job without wearing the childish hat.

      March 27, 2011 at 5:44 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.