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Will My Workplace Accommodate My Religious Attire?

February 7th, 2020

We are facing extraordinary times in our nation where practice of religious freedom in the workplace is straining the ability of employers to make appropriate and fair accommodations. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an agency tasked with investigating violations of federal laws against workplace discrimination, complaints regarding religious discrimination have skyrocketed in recent years.

There are certain religions in which many Americans are familiar. As immigrants from all nations have immigrated here over the years, there is hardly a religion that is not practiced in the United States. It is not surprising that cases involving religious discrimination are making their way up to the Supreme Court for resolution.

Dress Code Issue

Abercrombie & Fitch, a popular clothing company, focused on a look for its workers, which included specific requirements for fingernails, hair styles, shoes, and clothing. No hats, caps, or head coverings were to be worn. A Muslim job applicant wearing a headscarf was interviewed for a position as a sales model. She was told by the interviewer that she would be invited back for an orientation. When the interviewer asked her regional manager for a second opinion on the hire, she was told that the headscarf would violate the dress code.

Ultimately, the applicant was not offered the job. She filed a discrimination case with the EEOC, claiming the company refused to hire her because of her religion and failed to make an accommodation. Certain exceptions govern when employers impose requirements on an employee’s attire. Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQ) grant employers latitude to decide on the attire of employees in a secular setting. The question arises as to whether the exception can apply where freedom of religion is concerned.

Supreme Court Decision

Abercrombie argued that the petitioner/job applicant knew or should have known that wearing a headscarf would violate the company’s brand. They claimed she should not have remained silent about her need for a religious accommodation to their dress code policy. The Supreme Court was not persuaded and held that Abercrombie discriminated against the petitioner based on her religion.  Employers must make a reasonable effort to provide an accommodation to their employees for sincerely held religious practices unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship. Title VII also prohibits disparate treatment, job segregation, or harassment based on religious beliefs or practice, as well as retaliation for exercising employment rights.

Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Advocate for Those Experiencing Religious Discrimination at Work

If you experienced discrimination at work based on your religion or other protected class, speak to a knowledgeable Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyer at The Gold Law Firm P.C. We will fight for the justice you deserve. Contact us online or call us at 215-569-1999 for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and South Jersey.

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