The EEOC recently sued Rotten Ralph’s Restaurant for firing an employee for wearing a headscarf. The employee notified the general manager that she covered her hair for religious reasons during the application process, was hired, and worked wearing a headscarf without incident. However, when the general manager actually saw the employee wearing a headscarf at work, he allegedly told her she could not wear a “hoodie” and, when she reminded him that she wore it for religious reasons, terminated her employment.
In EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch, the Supreme Court held that an employer cannot refuse to hire an employee to avoid accommodating a religious practice (in that case, the employee’s headscarf would have violated Abercrombie’s appearance policy). Here, there is no information from the EEOC about whether Rotten Ralph’s dress code prohibited hoodies. Regardless, employers need to remember that the law requires reasonable accommodation of dress or grooming practices that arise from an employee’s religious beliefs, and that establishing an undue hardship as a basis to refuse to accommodate religious dress or grooming practices is often an uphill battle.