Delaware woman: Employer said she looked ‘like a terrorist,’ barred wearing hijab

USA Today Network

A Muslim woman in Delaware is accusing her employer of barring her from wearing her hijab at her job at a detention center and says a supervisor told her, “Now you’re looking like a terrorist.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) alleged the incidents in a complaint filed Thursday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

{mosads}Madinah Brown, a Muslim woman, wears the hijab, a religious head covering, “in accordance with her sincerely held religious beliefs,” according to the complaint. She applied to work in a youth rehabilitation counselor position at the New Castle County Detention Center in October 2011.

Before her interview process, a friend who previously worked with a state correctional facility warned her about wearing her hijab in the position, but Brown applied anyway.

Brown was not given the job at the time, but two months later, she says she reapplied without wearing the hijab and was given the position.

In February 2012, Brown began working for the state of Delaware without her hijab “because she did not see another option wherein she could remain employed,” the complaint states. In 2014, she tried to wear her hijab to work, and one of her supervisors allegedly reprimanded Brown and told her it was unacceptable to wear the hijab for “safety reasons.” 

Brown was instructed to remove the head covering. She says she contacted the human resources department and her superiors continued to tell her that religious head coverings were barred as part of the center’s policy.

Although she offered to adapt the hijab to be detachable and comply with security concerns, her supervisors did not accept the suggestion, according to the complaint. 

“Delaware was required to accommodate Ms. Brown’s sincerely held religious beliefs, unless doing so would impose undue hardship. Wearing a hijab does not pose an undue burden. Delaware prohibited Ms. Brown from wearing a hijab because they stated it posed a security and safety risk. Yet, Ms. Brown proposed a solution that would mitigate the potential safety hazards Delaware cited, with no cost to Delaware,” the report stated.

Brown then took a leave of absence between March 2018 and July 2019. Her supervisors allegedly texted her that she could not work if she wore a hijab. She asked “If I come to work in my religious covering, I’m not permitted to work?” to which her supervisor replied “Yes,” the complaint alleges. 

In August, Brown said she had difficulties with the metal detector and doors at the facility, and as she yelled toward the control room to be given access, she said a supervisor told her “Now you’re looking like a terrorist” in front of other employees.

The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, which oversees the detention center, issued a statement that it was not “attempting to stifle religious freedoms,” according to a statement from the department. 

“We must carefully balance our strong support of religious freedom with the need to keep youth and staff safe,” the statement said. “In some instances, a person’s job may require them to do certain actions, such as the physical restraint of a youth, that makes wearing some religious clothing unsafe.”

The department said it would “entertain alternative or modified clothing, as long as the safety risks are mitigated.”

Tags Delaware Hijab Islam

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video