Labor and Employment Law

Ca. Labor & Emp't Rev. May 2015, Volume 29, No. 3

MCLE Self-Study: Accommodating Religious Dress and Observances in the Workplace (Considerations Raised by EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch)

By Tyler Paetkau

Tyler Paetkau is a partner with Hartnett, Smith & Paetkau in Redwood City. He is past Chair of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California’s Labor and Employment Law Section, and a longtime member of the Law Review’s Editorial Board. Mr. Paetkau represents employers in all aspects of labor and employment law. He can be reached at tpaetkau@hslawoffice.com.

I. INTRODUCTION

An applicant arrives for her job interview at a large national retailer wearing a headscarf, which the hiring manager recognizes to be a hijab, often worn by devout Muslim women. Although the manager (correctly) suspects that the applicant is wearing the hijab for religious reasons, she is trained not to ask applicants about their religious beliefs and practices. The applicant does not volunteer that she is wearing the hijab for religious reasons. The manager declines to offer the applicant a job based on the employer’s grooming and dress policy, which prohibits employees from wearing any clothing on their heads. Did the employer violate federal or state employment laws prohibiting religious discrimination, and requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for an applicant’s religious beliefs and practices?

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