Alamo Target of Religious Bias Suit

PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against ANC Rental Corp., accusing the company of religious bias against a Muslim employee who refused to remove her head scarf during the holy month of Ramadan. The Alamo Rent A Car customer service representative, Bilan Nur, was disciplined and later fired.

The federal agency's Phoenix district office filed the lawsuit on behalf of Nur, who had worked for Alamo in Phoenix since 1999.

Alan Katz, a spokesman for ANC Rental Corp., said the company declined to comment on the accusations because of the pending litigation.

According to the suit, Alamo had previously permitted Nur to wear a head covering during Ramadan in 1999 and 2000. But in December, 2001, supervisors prohibited her from donning the scarf, citing the company dress code. The federal agency has alleged that Alamo had no such formal policy.

"This lawsuit serves as a stark reminder to employers that the sincerely held religious beliefs and practices of employees cannot be disregarded with impunity," said Mary Jo O'Neill, acting regional attorney of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office. "Employers have a legal obligation to accommodate the religious practices and beliefs of their employees unless it would create an undue hardship on their business operations."

The lawsuit seeks monetary relief, including back pay with interest and compensatory and punitive damages. The commission is also seeking an injunction prohibiting similar actions in the future.

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