EEOC releases new guidance on religious discrimination at work

One of the most controversial forms of workplace discrimination today involves attire worn by individuals of faith. Many workplace discrimination claims have been filed in recent years against major companies which would not hire, would not promote or otherwise engaged in religious discrimination against individuals compelled to wear the attire required by their religious doctrines.

Partially in response to this discriminatory trend, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently published new documentation that directly deals with attire-related religious discrimination in the workplace. These documents may be found on the EEOC’s agency website.

Specifically, the EEOC spells out the various workplace responsibilities and rights that employees are guaranteed under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Essentially, religious employees are allowed to wear clothing required by their religious doctrine and are protected from any related discrimination unless that clothing would cause the employer’s business undue harm or hardship.

Employers must otherwise reasonably accommodate not only religious clothing but other aspects of workers’ religious beliefs. This kind of additional accommodation may include giving Muslim workers a safe, clean place to pray for a few minutes at certain times of the day.

Religious clothing may be somewhat inconvenient for some employers, but unless allowing that kind of dress would cause a business undue harm or hardship employers must reasonably accommodate this kind of religious observance in the workplace under the law. If you have any questions about this issue or the EEOC’s recently released guidance on religious dress in the workplace, please contact an attorney experienced in matters of religious discrimination law.

Source: Bloomberg BNA, “EEOC Posts New Documents Addressing Religious Discrimination in the Workplace,” Kevin P. McGowan, March 17, 2014

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