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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. Narsima Rao

    I hate people suing in the name of religion. In this case all the suing money should go to some religious charity not to the woman or to the lawyer. I am hindu by birth, I can wear any religious hat and have fun with other religions. My faith on hinduism does not diminish just because I am wearing a Santa's hat or praying with some muslim friends. It is an honor for one religion when they do things relating other religion. Faith and hope are good elements for life. Keep them with you.

    April 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  2. RC

    Wearing a hat that was made famous by a holiday implies that you are celebrating that holiday. How can you not agree with that?

    I see a kid with a witch hat and broom walking down the street and it is sometime on halloween or near halloween. I would not think "hmm is this kid trying to be a witch or somethin?" NOOOO, I think "Ohh he is celebrating Holloween"

    Now think about this.... You bought a Birthday gift and the cashier wraps it up in a nice little box. Did that cashier just celebrate your birthday with you? NOOOO It was a job. She could have done gift wrapping job without the garb that identifies you as celebrating. Next person I see wearing a red santa hat I am going to go up to them and ask "Ohh hey you are Jewish aren't you? Because the good folks at CNN believe your red hat has nothing to do with celebrating Christmas"

    April 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • RC

      At that job you do not have to wear the hat all year either, so it is not a uniform. Otherwise that should have been stated in the beginning by employer

      April 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  3. Josh

    How is this different from a costume that people may be required to wear for any job. It was part of the attire that went with the job.

    April 1, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  4. R. A. Stro

    Most businesses have job descriptions and all the job descriptions I've ever read had what I call "line 9" because it seems to be the ninth item in each description.

    Anything deemed necessary by the management for the profitable operation of the business.

    I expect a large store like Belk's provided her with a copy of her job description when she was hired, she has no right to complain.

    April 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  5. JJ

    How silly is this. I believe this was a park time job and she was hired at the holiday time. She took a job to wrap Christmas presents and sues over it. WOW, what have we come to. The lawsuit should havebeen dismissed. I have tried to look at this in a number of ways and cannot see it any other way.

    March 31, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  6. Karl

    What insurance company agreed to this stupid settlement? I don't want that company representing my interests.

    March 31, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  7. Jehovah's Witnesses DON'T SUE PEOPLE

    If you take a job at a department store as a GIFT wrapper, you should expect that, at some point, you will have to do something holiday-related! I know for a fact that JW's believe that having anything to do with holidays or birthdays is wrong – since 90% of wrapped gifts involve birthdays, Valentine's, or Christmas, why would a real JW ever take such a job? Did she sign an agreement saying she would wrap only graduation and anniversary gifts? Bah. That would be like a Mormon taking a job at an adult bookstore and being offended by promiscuity. Also, "suing" is generally against the JW way.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  8. moonlady

    actually my job in general goes against my personal ethics. not so much the job but the company which i think is evil. but in this economy and the area i live in, it was the only job i could get after the company i worked at for years closed down. it is really hard to work for a company that goes against everything you believe in morally and ethically, but i do it because i have a family to feed. and i look for a different job constantly.

    March 31, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  9. moonlady

    as another poster said-in many retail stores you are hired to do a job and end up doing many jobs other than what you were hired for. i dont blame her. where i work our cashiers are required to push company credit cards on customers. i think that is wrong and so do many, who refuse to ask. if they are caughter not asking they get written up. in these times some people think it is wrong to push credit cards on people. the customers know there is a credit card and they can request one if they want to. there is another policy that requires cashiers to push entering a contest to win $1000 gift card. we know that this causes tons of span due to the nature of the contest and survey. plus you have to go through hoops in the survey and actually buy 3 different offers before you are entered. then you end up getting tons of spam in your email. this is not told on the survey slip-it makes it sound like you go answer some question about your experience as a customer and thats it.

    and yes...it would be great if employers tell their potential employees-hey at christmas you have to wear a santa hat-or at easter you have to wear bunny ears. some people really stand up for their beliefs and do not want to do these things. at that point they can say yes or no and if they say yes and then dont want to, the company is in the clear. but not many retail companies even tell you that even though you are being hired for this position you will be required to work in whatever section you are needed. i wouldnt wear a hat. and i never ask customers if they want a credit card. and i never ask them to do that stupid misleading survey. it goes against my personal ethics to do either. and i could get fired for it. but i was never told when i was hired that this is a requirement of the job. would i sue for it if i got fired? probably not because law suits generally go against my personal ethics too. not always but mostly. depends.

    March 31, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  10. MJ in Chicago

    $55K . . what's that, about 60 years worth of salary for a professional gift wrapper???? . .

    March 30, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  11. oh please

    wearing a hat is not PARTICIPATING in a RELIGIOUS event.

    WHAT A WASTE OF FREAKING MONEY AND COURT TIME!!!!

    March 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  12. crystaljem

    She was asked to wear a uniform, not celebrate the holiday. I'm not saying I agree one way or the other, but I think it shows intolerance on both sides. We get way to focused on the little things and miss out on the larger joys in life. The dollar value is absurd however.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  13. Carlos

    Now you know why everything is becoming (or has become) expensive in America and why countries like China, India, and Brazil are poised to become future world economic powers. I am all about fair treatment, respect of personal beliefs, tolerance, diversity, etc., but sometimes it borders on the extreme. Blink wrong, wear the wrong type of underwear, have a symbol of your belief hanging from your neck, wearing white socks instead of colored with dress pants, fat men in speedos on the beach (yikes!) are offensive to some and not to others. Why? It almost makes one want to become self-employed, work from home and hire no other persons but yourself or immediate family members. Celebrate what you like. Wear what you want to wear. Briefs or boxers, I don't care. I respect whatever the culture and diversity of the company is and hope that company will extend me the same courtesy. Good grief.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  14. adam

    JW's are hypocritical. We have three that work in our department. Whenever our department celebrates a holiday or birthday we post an announcement on the bulletin board with a list so people can sign up for the food etc. that they intend to bring. The JW's never sign up to bring anything, citing that they don't celebrate holidays and birthdays. But, when the food table is all set up they are the first in line.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Carlos

      Adam, funny but true. I once worked for a large Fortune 500 company in California (Pasadena) where this was also the case. The JW's would not contribute toward the event for the reasons you listed but would be the first in line to chow down citing they were part of the company and had a right to participate even if they did not contribute. We agreed but reminded them, "If you're going to participate (e.g. eat the food) then you must at least contribute to the food table." They stopped coming all together. How silly was that?

      March 30, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • You are right on one thing

      They shouldn't have been participating at all in any holiday or birthday celebration, including eating the food provided for the event. This was not the religion as a whole, this was a few individuals making bad decisions. Most do not participate in anything unless they are forced to – for instance office parties where they are required to attend. In those cases, attending and the amount of participation such as eating the food is up to the conscience of the person. In an optional situation, they should not have been participating at all.

      It's a shame that the decisions of two or three people can shape your view of a whole group, but that is a responsibility all face.

      April 14, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  15. Yasmin

    I work in food with several Muslim coworkers, and while they do not eat pork, they will still prepare it and wash their hands afterwards. Jehovah's witnesses are not to celebrate holidays or birthdays... So her whole premise of being offended about Christmas really doesn't apply since she wrapped gifts for other celebrations.

    March 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  16. Matou

    not much info is needed here. She accepted a job wrapping gifts at christmas. She had to be surrounded by lights, music and shoppers all related to the season. She can't claim ignorance here. She was already in violation of the jehovah witness' doctrine, but waited to cry foul until she had a foothold in the law. She should be denied this ludicrous settlement. If she didn't want to be immersed in christmas she shouldn't have taken the job. No one should be allowed to use their religion for personal gain. Is that not flying directly in the face of any religion? She is either very stupid or greedy, neither of which should be grounds for fleecing a company. People should practice their religion at home or at their church and leave it out of the workplace other than setting a good example of honest behaviour. Shine like a light? Avoid the appearance of evil? obey them that have the rule over you?(within reason of course) follow the law of the land? any of this sound familiar? Some will pervert and try to take advantage of any loophole they can find. Doing that in the name of their belief only shows how low they really are.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  17. JKale

    I'm not christian and I think this is stupid. She took a seasonal job...holiday season, though it was against her religion to observe any of those holidays, to wrap gifts very likely for those holidays. If she wanted nothing to do with it then she shouldn't have put herself in the position of having anything to do with it.

    March 29, 2011 at 4:56 am |
    • Monique

      You are so right! She knew exactly what she was getting in to and should not have applied for that job. Someone else probably would have loved it!

      March 31, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  18. greg

    it's a department store and it's christmas time, did she honestly believe they hired her to hand out watchtower magazines?

    March 28, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  19. greg

    if she was getting a paycheck it's plain and simple her butt belonged to her employer these frivolous lawsuit/get rich quick schemes are one of the primary reasons that insurance companies have run roughshod over the american people

    March 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  20. Ella Jay

    personally, i believe it is inappropriate to pick and choose when it comes to your religion. you either are of that religion and obey its rules and laws, or you are not of that religion. i find it interesting that she treated her religion's tenets more cavalierly than her own beliefs. to me, this adds up to suing just because someone told her she could make money from it.

    now, if she turns around and donates her winnings to her church, then go, you! otherwise, bah! humbug!

    March 28, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • scott501

      i doubt you even know the rules?

      March 28, 2011 at 10:26 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.