Your religious freedom is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the law. What this means when it comes to employment is that your employer or a prospective employer cannot discriminate against you due to your religious beliefs. No one in your workplace should harass you in any way because of your religious beliefs.
This may be what the law requires, but it doesn’t always play out that way in reality, particularly if your religious beliefs require you to dress or groom in a certain way. Your employer may tell you that you cannot observe these religious requirements while at work. Is that true?
Can you dress and groom according to your religious beliefs?
Your employer may try to deny you the right to express your beliefs at work, but unless it can be shown that your doing so would create an undue hardship on the company’s operations, that denial violates the law. Your employer may not have a problem with allowing you time off or a certain schedule in order to meet your needs as they pertain to your religion but may not allow for certain dress and grooming requirements of your religion, such as the following:
- Wearing certain facial hair or hairstyle, including Sikh uncut hair and beard or Rastafarian dreadlocks
- Wearing particular articles of clothing, such as a Muslim headscarf or Jewish yarmulke
- Not wearing specific types of clothes, such as miniskirts or pants
Even though you have the right to observe the requirements of your religion, you still must make a formal request to your employer for an accommodation. This creates a paper trail just in case your employer fails to adhere to the agreement, or one of your coworkers or supervisors claims you cannot dress or groom in a certain way. Of course, your employers may want more information before agreeing to your accommodation, which is their right.
What happens when your employer fails to accommodate?
If your employer fails to accommodate your religious dress and grooming requirements without showing an undue hardship, you may file a complaint. However, before doing so, it may be in your best interests to gain an understanding of your rights and options as they pertain to this issue.
Dealing with employment issues can cause a great deal of stress and frustration, especially when you try to handle them alone. Instead of adding to an already stressful situation, you could turn to an experienced employment law attorney here in the Washington, D.C., area.