California law aimed at protecting religious rights of workers

The right of individuals to practice their religion is a basic right afforded to all who reside in the United States. However, when it comes to exercising the same religious rights in the workplace, many employers have limited their employees ability to do so by setting forth certain appearance guidelines that can conflict with an individual's religious beliefs. Such restrictions are about to be outlawed under a new California statute aimed at protecting the rights of workers concerning their appearance when it is tied to their religious beliefs.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law recently. It will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. The law states that employers can no longer require employees to change their appearance to conform with company standards if their personal appearance is tied to their religious beliefs. The law also prohibits employers from separating certain workers from others based on this appearance. There is an exception possible if the accommodation would represent a significant difficulty or expense for employers.

According to one recent study, 12 percent of Sikhs have suffered workplace discrimination in the San Francisco area. It was also reported that in 2011, more than 500 workplace discrimination lawsuits had been filed in California. It is the hope of the government that this new law will now limit the number of these lawsuits, as companies will have a clear rule upon which to base their policies.

It is encouraging to hear that the California has taken protective measures to ensure that the rights of workers to practice their religious beliefs while engaged in their professional duties are protected. This law also should provide deterrence to employers who are engaged in such practices currently.

Source:, "CA Law Prohibits Religious Discrimination in the Workplace," Doresa Banning, Sept. 10, 2012

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