DOJ Takes Legal Action Against Prison Agency

Photo by Matthew Ansley on Unsplash

( – Following the termination of a records clerk at Pam Lychner State Jail, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit alleging that the Texas prison agency had denied an employee the religious accommodations they were entitled to. The lawsuit relates to the employee’s desire to wear a head covering in line with her faith.

Frances Spears, who practices Ifa and worked as a records clerk at the agency’s jail near Humble, Texas, was fired.

The Texas jail put Spears on leave without pay but later fired from her job because she wore a head covering. The DOJ is now arguing she should never have been terminated.

In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said that employers shouldn’t instruct employees to “forfeit” their beliefs or call the “sincerity of those beliefs” into question.

Clarke added that the lawsuit would remind employers that it was necessary to ensure employees have “reasonable” accommodations for their religious beliefs, adding that the law prevents employers from demanding employees decide “between their faith and their job.”

In the lawsuit, the DOJ alleged the Texas agency was in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The agency details how Spears was suspended without pay after she requested to wear a head covering per her religious beliefs. The former records clerk was later fired as she refused to remove her head scarf.

The case originates from 2019. In September of that year, and following a month of wearing her head covering without complaints, she was sent to human resources, where she was informed she had been breaching the agency’s “grooming standards.”

Spears informed human resources she practiced Ifa faith and explained what that entailed, to which Elizabeth Fisk, Human Resources Specialist, suggested Spears’s religion entailed “pray[ing] to a rock.”

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