Lingerie Shop Sued on Church Pledge

AP, Aug. 14, 2002
Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Victoria’s Secret on Tuesday alleging that one of its lingerie shops didn’t honor a promise to give a devout Baptist saleswoman most Sundays off to go to church.

The lawsuit said managers at a suburban Philadelphia Victoria’s Secret promised Lauren Ellerson when she was hired that she wouldn’t be required to work more than one Sunday a month.

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Instead, Ellerson said the store in Langhorne regularly scheduled her to work on the Sabbath and that managers ignored her request to be given the third Sunday of each month off so she could receive Holy Communion.

“If an individual has a strongly held religious belief and has a religious observance on certain days, the employer has an obligation to accommodate them,” said Jacqueline McNair, an attorney for the EEOC in Philadelphia. “She requested the time off as a condition of taking the job.”

The EEOC suit also accused store managers and employees of subjecting Ellerson to racist comments. Among the allegations, Ellerson said a manager told her to treat all black customers as potential shoplifters and said the store didn’t hire job applicants from a local high school because students there were “race mixers.”

The suit said Ellerson, who is black, eventually became depressed because of the alleged harassment, took a medical leave and was fired shortly thereafter. She worked at the store from December 1999 until April 2001.

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