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Top Religious Discrimination Lawyer Reply: What If My Religious Dress and Grooming Practice Violate My Job’s Dress Code?

| Sep 8, 2014 | Employment Discrimination, Religious Discrimination |

Best Ohio Religious Discrimination Attorney Answer: What if my employer restricts me from wearing a Muslim hijab? What should I do if my religious beard or hair requirements violate my employer’s grooming rules? How do I find the top employment discrimination lawyer in Ohio?

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Whether or not an employer has to accommodate an employee’s religious dress and grooming practices is a particularly problematic area of discrimination law due to the multitude of different religious requirements and the effect those requirements have on a specific job situation. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are required to make exceptions to their dress and grooming requirements once they are placed on notice than an accommodation is needed for sincerely held religious beliefs, unless it would pose an “undue hardship.”

The EEOC recently released new religious grooming guidelines to help clarify the difficult to regulate issues that arise when an employee’s religious beliefs conflict with an employer’s dress and grooming requirements. The EEOC guidelines specifically list numerous examples of religious dress and grooming practices that often result in issues with Title VII. The guidelines, which are non-exhaustive, mention wearing religious clothing or articles (e.g., a Christian cross, a Muslim hijab (headscarf), a Sikh turban, a Sikh kirpan (symbolic miniature sword)); observing a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (e.g., a Muslim, Pentecostal Christian, or Orthodox Jewish woman’s practice of wearing modest clothing, and of not wearing pants or short skirts); or adhering to shaving or hair length observances (e.g., Sikh uncut hair and beard, Rastafarian dreadlocks, or Jewish peyes (sidelocks)).

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The new guidelines also address what requirements are placed on the employee for providing notice to the employer that they are requesting an accommodation. An employee need not use any “magic words,” such as “I need a religious accommodation” in order to trigger protection under Title VII. In some instances, no request is required at all, as it will be “obvious” that a practice is religious and conflicts with a work policy. In that case, the employer is required to recognize that a religious accommodation is needed.

Further, the new EEOC guidelines give some clarification on what a “sincerely held” religious belief entails. The EEOC states that the fact that the employee’s religious practice deviates from the commonly-followed tenets of the religion does not mean that the employee’s religious observance is not sincere. Also, an employee’s religious beliefs or how devoutly they practice those religious beliefs may change over time, yet still remain sincerely held. The employer is, however, permitted to question the employee if they have legitimate questions as to the sincerity or even the religious nature of a particular belief or practice for which accommodation has been requested. In that case, the employer may ask the employee for information reasonably needed to evaluate the request.

While the EEOC guidelines provide some new guidance and clarification that may make claims of unlawful denial of religious dress and grooming requests more prevalent, there still remains many gray areas as to what constitutes “undue hardship.” Certainly if a long beard or sidelocks represent a safety hazard, such as they can easily get caught in a machine, would represent an undue hardship to an employer. But, undue hardship issues often aren’t as clear-cut. Since each religious accommodation request is so different, it is difficult to make wide-ranging guidelines that would clarify all potential pitfalls for employees. While the guidelines are a step in the right direction, any employee who is having religious dress or grooming issues should immediately speak to a knowledgeable employment attorney.

If you feel that you are being discriminated or harassed based on your religion or religious beliefs or that you were wrongfully terminated because of you are Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu or any other religion, the best course of action you can take is to call the right attorney at (216) 291-4744 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At The Spitz Law Firm, you will meet with a religious discrimination attorney, who will be able to tell you what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this religious discrimination blog and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I …”, “What should I do …,” “Can my boss discriminate against me because I’m (Jewish/Muslim/Mormon/Hindu)?” or “I was fired for my religious beliefs. The answer to “What can I do?”, is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular religious discrimination or other employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.