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Helping You Navigate Workplace Issues in California

New Regulations for Religious Discrimination

The United States was founded on the premise that all people should have the freedom to practice their chosen religion. Unfortunately, there are many people who still discriminate against others because of their beliefs and behaviors. How is this manifested in the workplace? According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, “In fiscal year 2013, the commission received 3,721 charges alleging religious discrimination, more than double the 1,709 charges received in fiscal year 1997.”

On March 6, 2014, the EEOC responded to this alarming trend by releasing new, detailed guidelines, that “spelled out workplace rights and responsibilities in a new question-and-answer guide and accompanying fact sheet,” writes Cathy Lynn Grossman for Religion New Service.

What are some of the implications for employers of workers with sincere religious beliefs?

  • Businesses with 15 or more workers must allow them to practice their religion in regards to dressing and grooming. In other words, an employer cannot deny a Muslim man his right to wear a headscarf or hijab or force a Nazarite to cut his hair due to appearance regulations.

  • Employers cannot refuse to interview someone because of their religious attire or grooming.

  • Employers cannot “hide” an employee in the workplace, away from clients or guests, due to religious attire that may have caused the business to lose clients due to the perceived practicing of a given religion.

  • Employers may not allow any discrimination between employees because of religious grooming or dressing.

  • Employees may change or adopt new religious beliefs. Employers cannot use any discriminatory or retaliatory tactics if an employee changes his or her dress or appearance.

In 2013 religious discrimination suits were brought against many companies. Here we share several that were brought to resolution outside of a trial through a settlement.

  • An Albuquerque woman was denied work in housekeeping unless she removed her headscarf.

  • A New Jersey Sikh salesman was not hired for an auto dealership because his appearance did not meet the company’s strict dress code.

  •  A Pentecostal Christian woman was fired when she refused to wear pants to work.

If you feel you have experienced religious discrimination in the workplace, contact the offices of Scott • Wagner and Associates. We specialize in employment laws, rights, and responsibilities.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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