On March 6, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued two new technical assistance guides addressing workplace rights and responsibilities with respect to religious dress and grooming. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which covers religious protections, in addition to race, color, sex, national origin, and genetic information, in employment.
A question-and-answer guide, entitled “Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities,” and an accompanying fact sheet provide a user-friendly discussion of the applicable law, practical advice for employers and employees, and numerous case examples.
According to the guidance, employers covered by Title VII must make exceptions to their usual rules or preferences in order to permit applicants and employees to follow religiously-mandated dress and grooming practices, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship to the operation of an employer’s business. When an exception is made as a religious accommodation, the employer may still refuse to allow exceptions sought by other employees for secular reasons.
Other topics covered in the publications include:
- prohibitions on job segregation, such as assigning an employee to a non-customer service position because of his or her religious garb;
- accommodating religious grooming or garb practices while ensuring employer workplace needs;
- avoiding workplace harassment based on religion, which may occur when an employee is required or coerced to forgo religious dress or grooming practices as a condition of employment; and
- ensuring there is no retaliation against employees who request religious accommodation.
Further more information about the EEOC and the laws it enforces, visit www.eeoc.gov. Additional resources on equal employment laws and practices can be found in AGC’s online Labor & HR Topical Resources library at www.agc.org/topicalresources.