Federal law provides specific protections for employees. Some of these protections center around closely held religious beliefs. There are some exceptions to the protections, so workers should be sure that they fully understand what is allowed and what isn’t allowed under the law.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is where you can find out what protections exist. Typically, employers must allow for religious grooming and dressing. Some examples of what is included in the protections are a Christian cross, a woman who needs to wear skirts for modesty, Rastafarian dreadlocks, a Muslim hijab or Sikh’s uncut beard and hair.
When an employee seeks these protections, the employee can’t be segregated because of his or her beliefs. Under Title VII, the employee must notify the employer of what accommodations are needed for religious purposes. The employer then must make an exception unless doing so would cause an undue hardship on the business.
An undue hardship isn’t something that is taken lightly. Workplace safety, health or security must be negatively impacted in order for the employer to deny the accommodation. The impact can’t be one that is assumed. Instead, there must be evidence that the hardship would exist if the accommodation is made.
There are two points that aren’t undue hardship, no matter how they impact the business. One of these is customer preference. The other is a co-worker being disgruntled about the accommodation. Neither of these fit the bill for an undue hardship and they can’t be considered when an employer is determining whether to accept or decline an accommodation.
Employees who are subjected to religious discrimination have the option of taking legal action. This might end in the employer having to accept the accommodation or other resolutions.
Source: U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “