New Jersey woman says bosses ordered her to remove hijab

An Elmwood Park woman claims she faced religious discrimination at her job at a Saddle Brook factory when her bosses ordered her to remove her hijab, or head scarf.

Naima Mnasri, who is Muslim, filed a complaint late in January with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Mnasri said she was ordered to remove her hijab at her second day of work on Jan. 17 while she was awaiting her day’s assignment at Paradigm Packaging, which makes plastic bottles for vitamins and medications.

In the complaint, she alleged that a supervisor and floor manager “singled her out” and told her she had to remove the head scarf to work there, both for safety reasons and because no religious symbols were permitted at the factory. Mnasri contested that the hijab, which covers her head, neck and chest, was part of her religious observance and that she had the right under the law to wear one. She left the job that day over the incident, she said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations of New Jersey, a nonprofit civil rights organization, filed the complaint on her behalf. Khurrum Ali, a lawyer and the council’s civil rights director, claimed that the company’s actions violated Mnasri’s civil rights, First Amendment rights and state discrimination law. “Their persistence that no religious symbols are permitted within their factory directly violates the U.S. Constitution and the very foundations the country was built upon,” Ali wrote in the complaint.

The company president and senior human resource manager did not return calls seeking comment. The director of finance, who declined to give his name, said he was not aware of the situation and declined to comment.

Mnsari had gotten the job at Paradigm Packaging through a Paterson employment agency that provides staffing for manufacturing jobs. She has since found other work through that agency., 4 February 2014