EEOC Focus on Rastafarians

Earlier this month, we blogged about an EEOC case for religious discrimination involving a Rastafarian employee.  Earlier this week, the EEOC announced a settlement in that case, and brought another religious discrimination case on behalf of another Rastafarian employee.  Both cases involved failures to accommodate religious beliefs as manifested through employee’s dress/appearance.  In one case, the employer refused to hire an applicant because he would not cut his hair.  In the other case, the employer fired an employee when he refused to remove his head covering.  Federal law requires employers to make exceptions to dress and grooming policies to accommodate job applicants and employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs unless the employer can show that the exception would pose an undue hardship.   The EEOC’s press releases do not state whether the employers alleged that  accommodating the employees would pose an undue hardship.  However, if you are going to demand adherence to your dress code by an employee with religious beliefs that prohibit compliance, you need to have a clear and compelling explanation of how the employee’s noncompliance creates an undue hardship for your business.

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