Another interesting post from Volokh Conspiracy involving ‘religious accommodation’, that is, how laws or regulations and religious belief intersect. The issue here is a woman working for a private security firm. She believes that her religion requires her to cover her head while in public. The company says that such a head covering violates company policy which requires a uniform appearance. Neither side would bend and the company fired her.
The woman then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a government organization designed to do what its title says, which supported her claim. The discussion finds that this woman’s case is distinguishable from similar cases involving police and fire departments because the woman’s employer is a private company, with less compelling need for uniformity in all regards.
Oh, by the way… the head covering under discussion is not a hijab!
According to the Complaint in EEOC v. Pollard Agency, filed last week, the Pollard Agency fired an employee for “wearing a headscarf to cover her hair, which is a sincerely held religious belief as required by her faith.” The EEOC argues that this violates the duty of religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended in 1972).
I think the EEOC is likely right, if it’s discussion of the facts is correct. Title VII requires employers to provide reasonable religious accommodations, by (1) giving religious employees special exemptions from generally applicable job requirements (2) if the requirements interfere with an employee’s “religious observance and practice” and (3) such an exemption doesn’t impose “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business,” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j). Exemptions from dress codes, such as no-hat rules, requirements that everyone wear pants (which some religious groups object to, when applied to women), and the like, are a classic example of reasonable accommodations, since an employer can generally grant them without an undue hardship.