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California bill aims to prevent religion discrimination in workplaces

Last month on our Los Angeles / Long Beach employment law blog, we had mentioned that a former Disneyland worker, who is Muslim, was suing her employer because she was fired for wearing her head scarf to work. Many other similar lawsuits have been filed against employers in California citing religion discrimination in the workplace.

While the Disneyland employee and other workers who have been discriminated against, harassed, retaliated against and wrongfully terminated as a result of their religious beliefs and practices continue to fight to get their jobs back and to obtain damages for their employers' illegal actions, other workers may be able to rest assured that their employers will be required to follow new guidelines that better clarify employees' rights in the workplace.

Over the weekend, Governor Jerry Brown signed a new bill that will ban employers in California from discriminating against workers whose religious beliefs require them to wear hijabs, turbans, beards and other religious garments.

The bill, AB 1964, was signed on Saturday. Religious discrimination is already illegal in the workplace, but as times have changed and the workforce has become more diverse, laws can quickly become outdated and need revisions to better protect all workers.

The new bill clearly states that employers must allow workers to wear their religious garments, even in public positions. This guarantees that workers' religious beliefs will be better accommodated in the workplace. If employers fail to follow these new guidelines, employees can take legal action and may even have their cases resolved more quickly.

Some employees could still legally be banned from wearing religious garments, though. In some workplaces, it may not be safe for employees to wear head scarves or long beards. There are also some instances in which allowing workers to wear religious garments would cause unnecessary hardships for employers.

The new guidelines could take effect as soon as Jan. 1, 2013.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Bill protects religious garb, grooming in the workplace," Patrick McGreevy, Sept. 9, 2012

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