Not all requests to avoid religious attire are discriminatory

On Behalf of | Oct 23, 2019 | Blog |

As you know, religious discrimination is not allowed in the workplace. However, there is a distinct difference between religious discrimination and banning certain headwear because it’s dangerous to the work environment.

Take, for example, the use of headscarves. In most jobs, using a headscarf is not going to endanger anyone. It won’t impact your ability to work and won’t impact others. However, there are some instances where it could, like in a factory or construction environment. If you’ll be working around machinery that could catch the headscarf and pull you toward it, then it’s probably not safe to wear in the workplace.

If providing a religious accommodation will put you or others in danger or place an unfair burden on your employer, there is the likelihood that your employer has the right to ask you not to wear that item while you’re working. There may be alternatives that are less likely to endanger you, which is something to take up with your employer.

How do you know if you’re being discriminated against or if the request that you don’t wear religious items is merited?

It’s fairly simple to tell if the request is merited. If the item you wish to wear would cause undue hardship to your employer, then they can ask you not to wear it. Typically, courts take these situations on a case-by-case basis, because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s definition of undue hardship can be defined in different ways. In general, a court would likely rule for your employer if:

  • The accommodation would pose a risk to public safety
  • The accommodation would stop other employees from exercising their rights
  • There would be a serious loss in productivity as a result of wearing the item
  • Wearing the item would force others to take on too much work

For headscarves, such as the hijab, there are a few cases when an employer would be able to ask you not to wear one. However, the hijab could pose a safety risk if you have a job where you lean over dangerous equipment. In that case, it would be fair for your employer to ask you not to wear it while performing that task.

If you believe that the request to go without your religious apparel is unwarranted, then you should tell your employer why you believe so. If you cannot come to an agreement, then you may want to speak with a Minneapolis employment law attorney.