New EEOC Workplace Guidelines On Garb and Dress:Clarification OR Increased Claims?

PRESS RELEASE
3-6-14

EEOC Issues New Publications on Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace

Practical Guides Will Assist Employers and Employees

WASHINGTON- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today issued two new technical assistance publications addressing workplace rights and responsibilities with respect to religious dress and grooming under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The question-and-answer guide, entitled “Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities,” and an accompanying fact sheet, provide a user-friendly discussion of the applicable law, practical advice for employers and employees, and numerous case examples based on the EEOC’s litigation.

Employers covered by Title VII must make exceptions to their usual rules or preferences to permit applicants and employees to follow religiously-mandated dress and grooming practices unless it would pose an undue hardship to the operation of an employer’s business.  When an exception is made as a religious accommodation, the employer may still refuse to allow exceptions sought by other employees for secular reasons.

Topics covered in the publications include:

  • prohibitions on job segregation, such as assigning an employee to a non-customer service position because of his or her religious garb;
  • accommodating religious grooming or garb practices while ensuring employer workplace needs;
  • avoiding workplace harassment based on religion, which may occur when an employee is required or coerced to forgo religious dress or grooming practices as a condition of employment; and
  • ensuring there is no retaliation against employees who request religious accommodation.

Religious discrimination charges relating to a wide range of issues have steadily increased.  In fiscal year 2013, the Commission received 3,721 charges alleging religious discrimination, more than double the 1,709 charges received in fiscal year 1997.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the Commission is available at its website, http://www.eeoc.gov.

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
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