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Suit Settled Over Denial of Muslim Teacher's Pilgrimage

The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a consent decree with an Illinois school district over a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination in the case of a Muslim teacher who was denied leave to make a religious pilgrimage.

Berkeley School District 87 in suburban Chicago agreed to pay $75,000 in back pay, compensatory damages, and attorneys' fees to Safoorah Khan.

Khan, a nontenured middle school teacher, sought a two-week leave of absence in December 2008 to perform the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

"Employees should not have to choose between practicing their religion and their jobs," Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in an Oct. 13 news release.

Khan complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when the district refused her request and compelled her to choose between her job and her religion, the Justice Department said. The department filed its lawsuit against the district in December, alleging unlawful discrimination based on religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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