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Religious discrimination laws protect grooming and garb practices

For many Iowa residents, part of their religious observance dictates how they groom themselves and the clothes they wear. Some people are unaware of its importance to those who follow various religions and that these mandates must be followed. They will subsequently engage in religious discrimination in the workplace. Others might simply make untoward comments about it. This too can be viewed as religious discrimination and a violation of employee rights. Understanding how religious garb and grooming are protected in the workplace is important. If there is a violation, the victim may have the right to seek compensation in a legal filing.

A variety of religions - Judaism, Islam, some forms of Christianity and others - require that adherents adjust their grooming practices or wear certain clothing. Employers, in general, are required to alter their basic rules to allow workers to observe their religion. There are certain rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that shields these workers if the workplace has a minimum of 15 employees.

With Title VII, there is a protection against disparate impact when people are recruited, hired, promoted, given benefits, trained, terminated, given certain duties and other areas of employment. The employee cannot be denied a reasonable accommodation to follow his or her own religious practices except in cases in which it is an undue hardship from the employer. There cannot be a religion-based segregation at the workplace or when performing the job. People cannot be harassed because of their religion and the practices that go along with it. Retaliation is against the law when the worker requests to receive an accommodation, files a charge of discrimination, testifies or helps others in an investigation from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This is true whether the accommodation was granted or not.

There are many different rules that certain religions have, from the headscarf for a Muslim to the type of clothing an adherent Jew must wear. If there is a belief that religious discrimination is taking place, it is a violation of the person's civil rights and could be the basis for a legal filing. A law firm that is experienced in helping clients who have been victimized by any form of workplace discrimination can work to give advice on how to pursue a case.

Source: eeoc.gov, "Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities," accessed on May 1, 2018

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