Muslim women fired for wearing long skirts reach settlement with UPS

UPS said long skirts created a safety hazard in delivery plant but short skirts were against the women’s religion

A delivery company operating in Ontario has reached a settlement with eight Muslim women it fired three years ago for uniform violations after the women filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Nadifo Yusuf, 35, worked as a temporary employee at a United Parcel Service (UPS) delivery plant in Toronto for two years. She wore the traditional Muslim clothes — hijab, headscarf and ankle-length skirt — to work every day. At times when it was necessary for safety reasons, she tucked in her hijab and raised her skirt to mid-calf.

In April 2005, Yusuf got a full-time unionized position as a box scanner at the plant. However, UPS then told her that her clothes did not follow safety regulations and she must raise her skirt to knee-length for health and safety reasons. If she didn’t comply, UPS said, she would be fired.

Yusuf and several other Muslim women who worked for UPS explained their religion required them to cover their entire body, but UPS responded with a job hazard analysis that said ankle-length skirts could get caught when workers climbed high ladders and moved boxes as part of their jobs. Because of this risk, it couldn’t make exceptions to its policy of requiring skirts to be no longer than the knees.

The women said they wore long pants underneath the skirts, but these could still show the shape of their calves if a skirt was higher than the ankles. When they refused to comply with the skirt length requirement, UPS fired them on July 13, 2005.

The fired women filed a human rights complaint saying UPS discriminated against them because of their religion and sex when it fired them. The complaint was heard before the tribunal in September 2008.

On Nov. 17, UPS reached an agreement with the women. Details weren’t released, but the women said they were happy with the result.

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