The recently announced settlement of a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC gives us an opportunity to revisit religious discrimination in the workplace – a hot topic these days.
“Georgia Blue”, a restaurant in Mississippi, had a dress code requiring servers to wear blue denim pants. A newly hired Apostolic Pentecostal employee, whose religious belief requires women to wear only skirts or dresses, has asked for an accommodation – to be allowed to wear a blue denim skirt.
He was, however, told that “the owner” would not “deviate” from the company’s dress code. »
It cost Georgia Blue $25,000 in settlement of the EEOC’s religious discrimination lawsuit.
We’ve seen this before – many times.
I said earlier that cases of religious discrimination in the workplace generaly come in two forms (not always, of course): employers prohibit certain religious attire or religious dressing, or discriminate against an employee’s observance of religious beliefs. This new colony involved, of course, religious attire.
In late 2016, I wrote about a company that designs and manufactures automotive brake components, and its recruiting agency, that were sued by the EEOC for religious discrimination in hiring. The potential employee, who had received a job offer, “is an observant member of the Apostolic Faith Church of God and True Holiness, a Pentecostal Christian denomination. [She] religiously believes that she cannot wear pants because she is female and is commanded to wear skirts or dresses.
However, the potential employer had a dress code policy that required employees to wear pants.
Sound vaguely familiar?
Something must have given way: the employer ordered the agency not to hire him and his job offer was withdrawn. The company’s dress policy would not pander to religious beliefs when it comes to dress.
A lawyer for the EEOC said, “We are particularly concerned when the requested accommodation is easy to provide and the employer appears to have reacted to myths or stereotypes about a religion.”
Of course, there have been many other cases involving the religious garb of other religious groups.
A restaurant in New Mexico was recently sued by the EEOC for allegedly failing to accommodate a Muslim employee who asked to be allowed to work while wearing a hijab – a headscarf. We have also written about this precise situation many times before.
Not long ago, the EEOC settled a religious discrimination case filed against a Florida staffing company for the hospitality industry. It has been alleged that an employee, who was a Rastafarian who wore dreadlocks as part of his sincere religious belief, was removed from his post and never reassigned because he refused to comply with the policy grooming a hotel client by not cutting his dreadlocks.
Remember: Employers risk breaking the law if they force an employee to choose between their job and their religion
Regarding the new regulations, the EEOC regional attorney said, “This case is a reminder that employers risk breaking the law if they force an employee to choose between her job and her religion.”
Everyone should know by now that Title VII requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs unless unduly coercive.
And the layouts are usually not that expensive, or even cumbersome. Indeed, another EEOC official previously stated that “often, when there is a conflict between an employee’s religious beliefs and a work rule, it is easy to change company policy allowing an employee to continue working without violating their religious beliefs”.
Employers take note.