Islamic Law in U.S. Courts: Webb v. City of Philadelphia (3d Cir. 2009): Ḥijāb with Police Uniform

A female Muslim police officer, Kimberlie Webb, sued the City of Philadelphia under Title VII and the Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Protection Act, alleging religion- and gender-based discrimination. Specifically, the plaintiff objected to the City barring her from wearing a headscarf (ḥijāb) with her police uniform, and argued that the prohibition amounted to a failure to accommodate her right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. The City argued that the bar was consistent with Philadelphia Police Directive 78 and that allowing her to wear religious garb would cause an undue burden on the City and the Police Department, in that it would compromise a look of cohesiveness and uniformity among officers. The Court concluded that the plaintiff failed to exhaust internal remedies regarding her claim of gender discrimination and found the bar on the headscarf to be a compelling state interest. Accordingly, the Court upheld the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granting the City’s motion for summary judgment.

Read the case.