Many religions, including Sikhism, Islam, and sects of Judaism, require that men and women do not cut their hair or that men do not shave their beards. Can employers force employees to cut their hair or shave their beards against their religion? It depends on the specific situation.
Understanding Title VII
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers with at least fifteen employees from discriminating against individuals because of their religion (or lack of religious belief) in hiring, firing, or any other terms and conditions of employment. Unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer’s operation of its business, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s grooming practices that he or she observes for religious reasons. Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beards are examples of grooming practices observed for religious reasons.
When an employee needs a grooming accommodation for religious reasons, the employee should notify the employer that he or she needs such an accommodation for religious reasons. If the employer reasonably needs more information, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the employee’s request.
During the interactive process, the employee must identify the employment practices or rules that interfere with his or her religious belief so that the employer can assess whether an accommodation is available. The employer must consider in good faith whether an accommodation is possible and whether such accommodation poses an undue hardship to its business operations.
Know Your Rights
An employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work. Undue hardship is determined on a case by case basis. Unless an employee has a religious reason for his or her hairstyle, an employer can dictate how an employee wears his or her hair at work.
If you are being discriminated against by your employer on the basis of your religious beliefs, contact a workplace discrimination lawyer in Minnesota. A workplace discrimination lawyer at Schaefer Halleen, LLC can discuss your employment situation with you and explain options to protect your rights.