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EEOC issues new guidance on the accommodation of religious garb and grooming in the workplace

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidance today regarding the rights of employees to dress and groom themselves consistently with their religious beliefs. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as the Maine Human Rights Act, employers must accommodate employees who, for instance, wear particular types of head coverings or grow facial hair for religious purposes. For instance, for religious reasons, some Jewish people wear yarmulkes, some Sikhs wear turbans, and some Muslims wear beards. Unless an employer can show that it would suffer an undue hardship, it must permit employees to wear religious garb and groom themselves consistent with their religious beliefs.

Among other things, the EEOC’s new guidance makes clear that an employer may not refuse to permit a person to wear religious clothing merely because some of its customers object. For instance, if an employee at a coffee shop wears a turban for religious reasons, the coffee shop may not force him to stop wearing the turban merely to appease the customers.

If your employer has refused to accommodate your religious beliefs, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about your rights.