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Civil Rights Cases Involving Improper Arrest of a Sexual Assault Victim & Khimar Muslim Head Coverings in Prison Workplace

By FindLaw Staff on August 02, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Reedy v. Evanson, 09-2210, concerned a plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action against a detective and others, claiming unlawful seizure and unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment and related state law violations arising from a criminal complaint against plaintiff for falsely reporting a crime of sexual assault and robbery while working as a cashier at a convenience store (these were later dropped after a serial rapist was captured and confessed to the crimes).

In reversing in part, the court held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the detective on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment unlawful seizure claim and her related federal and state law claims, as no reasonably competent officer could have concluded at the time of plaintiff's arrest that there was probable cause for the arrest. The court also reversed where the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the detective on plaintiff's unlawful search claim.   Also, summary judgment on detective's defense of qualified immunity cannot stand as the availability of the defense must be decided after fact finding by the jury to determine whether the facts as recounted by the detective or by plaintiff are more credible. 

However, the court affirmed as to the district court's grant of summary judgment as to all claims against the officer and the public safety director, as well as the grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, against the officer and the safety director.

Equal Employment Oppotunity Comm'n v. Geo Group, Inc., 09-3093, concerned the EEOC's Title VII suit on behalf of a class of Muslim women employees against a private company that was contracted to run a prison for Delaware County, claiming that defendant violated Title VII's prohibitions on religious discrimination when it failed to accommodate the class members by providing them an exception to the prison's dress policy that otherwise precluded them from wearing Muslim head coverings called khimars at work.  In affirming the district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment, the court held that the district court did not err by relying on Webb v. City of Philadelphia, 562 F.3d 256 (3d. Cir. 2009), which held that, notwithstanding the sincere religious beliefs of plaintiff police officer of the need to wear a khimar, that belief was subordinate to the police department's policy prohibiting the wearing of a khimar because "safety is undoubtedly an interest of the greatest importance."

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