A very important part of federal employment law is that which deals with workplace discrimination. While most people know that it is illegal to discriminate against someone in hiring or in the workplace because of a person’s skin color, ethnicity or gender, there are other distinctions that are protected, too. One of these is religion.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from religious discrimination in the workplace, and it also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for religious needs. A Grand Prairie, Texas, Burger King was recently accused of violating a worker’s employment rights when it fired her for wearing a skirt on her first day of work. The woman is a Pentecostal Christian, a religion that requires women to wear only skirts or dresses.
The woman had reportedly even asked a manager during her job interview if it would be OK for her to wear a skirt rather than the uniform pants. She was told that this would be allowed. But, when she arrived at the Burger King restaurant for her new employee orientation in a skirt, she was fired.
The EEOC is asking for back pay as well as damages.
In some cases, where a skirt would prevent some type of danger or impede a worker from doing the job, the employer might not be expected to allow this type of uniform accommodation. For example, if a woman wanted to wear a skirt in a factory job where the long loose material could get caught in machinery and pose a safety risk, the employer might have a legitimate argument for asking the worker to wear regulation uniform pants.
However, as an EEOC attorney said in a statement provided to Business Insurance: “We haven’t come far enough in our respect of religious liberties at the workplace if we have employers saying that uniform policies trump a religious observance without articulation of any hardship posed by letting an employee ‘hold the pickles’ and ‘hold the lettuce’ while wearing a skirt.”
Source: Business Insurance, “EEOC files charges against Burger King in workplace attire dispute,” Judy Greenwald, Aug. 24, 2012
- Our law firm helps protect the rights of workers who have been discriminated against in the workplace. To learn more about our practice, please visit our San Antonio Discrimination page.