The Department of Justice has filed suit against a school district in Illinois, near Chicago, because the school refused to allow a Moslem teacher time off to go on the Hajj.  The Hajj is a requirement for Moslems who are financially and physically able.  They make a trip to Mecca and pray.  It is said to be a very spiritual journey.  

The teacher asked for unpaid leave twice and was turned down both times.  Believing she had to choose between her religion and her job, she chose her faith.  She quit.  See CBS news report

She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Apparently, the Department of Justice filed suit.  The EEOC found cause.  That is, the EEOC found sufficient basis to believe the school district violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  Such cases are then sent to the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. for review.  Apparently, DOJ filed suit, a rare move. 

It sounds like a good case.  Title VII requires employer to accommodate all religions.  Not allowing her time off would be a pretty clear failure to accommodate.  The school’s best defense is usually to claim undue hardship, that the teacher’s absence would cause too much hardship for a small district or because she was simply so essential.  

When I was in Iraq, traveling around northeast Iraq, I saw many flags flying from folks’ houses, and walled compounds.  Later, I learned they were flags indicating folks who had made the Hajj.  The Arabs even wear different robes based on whether they have made the Hajj or not.  It is no small thing to make the Hajj.