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Long skirt at Hollister's; Obama T-shirt in 5th grade

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 25, 2008 - The EEOC in St. Louis has sued Hollister for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by refusing at its Galleria store to accommodate Lakettra Bennett's Pentecostal beliefs.  Hollister has a "Look Policy" required female sales personnel to wear either short skirts or pants while at work.  Bennett asked to wear a longer skirt because her religion does not permit pants or skirts that don't cover the knee.  Hollister, the edgy clothing store, fired Bennett when she refused to wear the short skirt.

Title VII prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' sincere religious beliefs, as long that the accommodations don't pose an undue hardship.  The EEOC filed suit against the clothing firm after it couldn't reach a voluntary settlement.  The suit seeks reinstatement, back pay and compensatory and punitive damages.

Barbara A. Seely, the regional attorney for the EEOC, said, "Allowing a sales associate to wear a skirt that covers her knees will not injure Hollister's business. To terminate an employee because her religion requires modest dress is unlawful discrimination."

Abercrombie and Fitch said in a statement that it hadn't seen the complaint but would be "very surprised" if the company had not adhered to its "long-standing commitment to fostering diversity and inclusiveness."

Meanwhile, 11-year-old Daxx Dalton says his First Amendment rights were violated by the Aurora K-8 Frontier School in Aurora, Co., for suspending him for his anti-Obama T-Shirt. Dalton wore the homemade red-white-and-blue shirt on a day when students were told to show their patriotism. Daxx's father, Dann, defended his son saying the school system was "full of liberal loons."

The U.S. Supreme Court recently said a prinicipal could suspend a student who held up a sign promoting drug use across the street from the school. But Dalton's is a political message, not a drug message. Principals can suspend students for speech that raises the prospect of disruption, such a stories or pictures about school shootings.  But they can't force a student to take off an arm-band protesting the war. Where does the T-shirt fit in?  Is it a statement of opinion, if hyperbolic, or is it a false statement of fact?

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