Judge dismisses challenge to uniform policy

January 21, 2012 12:08:00 AM



TUPELO -- A federal judge has upheld a uniform policy in Lee County that requires detention center officers to wear pants furnished by the sheriff's department. 


The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that juvenile detention center officer Crystal Finnie had alleged she was illegally fired in 2009 because she refused to wear trousers. 


According to court documents, Finnie apparently abided by this policy, without complaint, until September 2008 after she converted to the Pentecostal faith and was under the conviction that she could no longer wear pants. 


She reportedly talked to the sheriff for permission to wear a skirt. 


The county contended that before hearing back from officials, Finnie began wearing a skirt until March 6, 2009, when she was warned she would be suspended without pay if the practice continued. 


The facility's administrator told her to get in compliance or resign, according to court records. 


Three days later, she filed a charge of religious and gender discrimination with the EEOC. In April she was fired. 


She sued in March 2010, alleging violation of her First Amendment rights of free speech and exercise of religion. 


U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock ruled Tuesday that the jail's pants-only policy did not infringe upon Finnie's free-speech rights and is constitutional.  


Aycock said Finnie failed to prove that she was discriminated against, when the evidence is taken as a whole. 


"The 'pants-only' dress code here applies to all employees equally; it does not single out males or females," Aycock said. 


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