The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against a fast food restaurant franchisee, alleging religious discrimination.
The EEOC alleges that when the employer offered the plaintiff a maintenance job, the manager informed him that workplace policy required him to shave his beard. The man told the manager that he is a practicing Hasidic Jew and could not, according to his religious beliefs, shave his beard. He did offer to wear a beard net, but the manager refused and did not hire him.
The EEOC attorney in the case stated the employer's actions were "unjustified and unlawful," and particularly egregious when a reasonable accommodation was available. "EEOC Sues McDonald's Over Religious Discrimination Against Florida Job Applicant" www.insurancejournal.com (Jul. 24, 2019).
Commentary and Checklist
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs and practices unless doing so causes an undue hardship.
Employers can establish dress codes and grooming requirements, but must allow for exceptions for seriously held religious beliefs.
The employer in the above case will have a difficult time defending its actions, particularly if the evidence shows that the job offer was rescinded only after the applicant informed the employer that he could not shave his beard for religious reasons, and that he was amenable to the reasonable accommodation of a beard net. Beard nets are commonly allowed in facilities, like this one, that prepare and serve food.
Here are some further suggestions to help you limit discrimination risk associated with grooming policies and dress codes: