A Federal court will likely determine how far employers must go to accommodate the religious practices of their staff members.
According to media reports, the Justice Department (DOJ) has sued a school district in Illinois for refusing to grant a Muslim employee three weeks off to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. The government's lawsuit was filed in December 2010, two years after Safoorah Khan resigned from her teaching position at MacArthur Middle School in Berkeley, Ill.
In her first full year of employment, Khan requested three weeks of unpaid leave in December of 2008 to attend Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. The school denied her request because it fell just prior to students' final exams.
Khan quit her job and took her case to the Chicago Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ruled in her favor and referred the case to the DOJ. The government agency claims that the school district violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by denying an employee the opportunity to practice her religion.
Critics of the lawsuit argue that the school had the right to deny Khan's request because her time off would have significantly interfered with her job.
"The Justice Department is using its power and law to push frankly extreme cultural and other views that the ordinary American person does not agree with," said former DOJ Civil Rights Division lawyer Hans von Spakovski, quoted by FOX News.