Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Do You Have to Remove a Religious Garment If Your Employer Asks?

The majority of employment arrangements are at-will, meaning either the employer or employee can end the employment for whatever reason or no reason at all. But there are some reasons an employer can't use to fire you. For instance, you can't be fired for reporting workplace safety or wage and hour violations. You also can't be fired solely based upon your race, national origin, gender, or religion.

But what about your religious wear? We know that many employers have dress codes -- does that mean they can force you to remove a religious garment like a hijab, temple garment, or yarmulke?

Federal Law

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act governs discrimination in the workplace generally and religious discrimination at work specifically. Title VII requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees' religious practices, and courts will generally apply a two-part test to requests religious accommodations:

  1. Is the accommodation reasonable?
  2. Would the accommodation cause an undue hardship on the employer?

Under Title VII, courts balance reasonableness of the employer's actions against the hardship caused by complying with the employees' religious practices.

For example, courts have found that companies acted unreasonably when refusing to allow Muslim employees to wear a headscarf, or hijab, during the holy month of Ramadan. Those courts couldn't find any undue hardship on the companies in allowing employees to wear a hijab.

Federal Action

Title VII, however, doesn't apply to every employer, and, even if it does, filing a claim for religious discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may be complicated and required before you file a civil lawsuit. If your employer is not bound by federal Title VII restrictions, you may want to look into state or local religious discrimination protections. If you have more questions, contact an experienced employment attorney in your area.

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