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Published On: Fri, Mar 7th, 2014

EEOC rules on religious protections: wearing a cross, Sikh turban in workplace

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new, detailed guidelines for employers Thursday as the number of complaints and million-dollar settlements for cases of religious workplace discrimination neared record levels in 2013.

photo Simon Dean Media via Flickr

photo Simon Dean Media via Flickr

An EEOC spokesperson, Justine Lisser, said Thursday that the 20-year trend shows “a persistent uptick in religious discrimination charges that continues unabated.” Complaints have more than doubled since 1997. Lisser also said that representatives of religious groups have asked for more EEOC outreach in this area.

There have been guidelines in the past but the EEOC spelled out workplace rights and responsibilities in a new question-and-answer guide and accompanying fact sheet.

The new guidelines detail how businesses with more than 15 employees must accommodate workers with “sincerely” held religious beliefs—and unbelievers who “sincerely” refuse religious garb or insignia. Businesses cannot refuse to interview a Sikh with a turban or a Christian wearing a cross.

Neither can they limit where employees work because of their religious dress.

In 2013, Umme-Hani Khan won her case against Abercrombie & Fitch, filed in 2011, after a supervisor said she didn’t fit the model look for their San Mateo, Calif., store because she wore a headscarf.

Workers must be accommodated for refusing to wear certain garments, such as an Orthodox Jewish woman declining to wear a short skirt.

Additionally, employers must allow Rastafarians, for example, to wear their hair in dreadlocks.

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news for Examiner, starting and writing for several different websites including the diverse blognews site Desk of Brian. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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