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United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
November 13, 2013, Filed
[*325] EDITH H. JONES, Circuit Judge:
Kawaljeet Tagore ("Tagore") was refused permission to wear a kirpan (a Sikh ceremonial sword) with a blade long enough to be considered a "dangerous weapon" under federal law inside the federal building where she worked for the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"). She lost her job by failing to [**2] comply with the applicable regulations or receive an appropriate waiver. Tagore sued the United States and various federal agencies and employees, alleging violations of her religious rights protected by Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the government defendants on both claims. We affirm summary judgment on Tagore's Title VII claim. We reverse and [*326] remand her RFRA claim for further development of evidence concerning the government's compelling interest in enforcing against this plaintiff the statutory ban on weapons with blades exceeding 2.5 inches. 18 U.S.C. § 930(a), (g)(2).
In 2004, Tagore was hired as a revenue agent for the IRS in the George "Mickey" Leland federal building ("Leland building") in Houston, Texas. In April 2005, she participated in an Amrit Sanskar ceremony, pursuant to which she was formally initiated into the Sikh faith. Following the ceremony, Tagore began wearing the five articles of the Sikh faith, including an approximately 9-inch kirpan, a Sikh article that "resembles a knife or sword but, unlike those objects, [**3] often has an edge that is curved or blunted."
On her first day back at work after taking Amrit, Tagore passed through security without setting off the metal detector and proceeded to her office. After Tagore informed her supervisor, Nieves Narvaez ("Narvaez"), that she was wearing her kirpan, Narvaez instructed her to request a security waiver. He told Tagore to explain that she had recently been baptized into Sikhism and needed to carry the five articles of faith, including the kirpan, on her person at all times. Thereafter, Tagore began wearing a shorter kirpan with a blade approximately 3 inches long in hopes that it would alleviate the security concerns.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
735 F.3d 324 *; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 22913 **; 120 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1093; 97 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P44,943; 2013 WL 6008901
KAWALJEET K. TAGORE, Plaintiff-Appellant v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY; FEDERAL PROTECTIVE SERVICE; UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY - INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, Defendants-Appellees
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Tagore v. United States, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74235 (S.D. Tex., Aug. 21, 2009)
Disposition: AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED IN PART; REMANDED IN PART.
kirpan, wearing, blade, sincere, accommodate, religious, federal building, district court, religious belief, inches, dangerous weapon, exemption, religious practice, exercise of religion, summary judgment, federal law, Attachment, violating, genuine, dulled, facie
Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Evidentiary Considerations, Entitlement as Matter of Law, General Overview, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Religious Freedom, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Labor & Employment Law, Religious Discrimination, Burdens of Proof, Employee Burdens, Title VII Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Defenses, Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship, Burden Shifting, Criminal Law & Procedure, Weapons Offenses, Possession of Weapons