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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) endeavor to prevent workplace discrimination.

Recently, the EEOC shared new religious discrimination guidelines to ensure that employees and job applicants of Muslim and Middle Eastern descent in California and elsewhere are protected under federal employment law.

The New EEOC Religious Discrimination Guidelines

The new EEOC guidelines have been updated to protect individuals who are Muslim or appear to be of Middle Eastern descent. These guidelines provide employers with specific guidance regarding the appropriate treatment of individuals who are practicing Muslims.

The guidelines reaffirm Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits workplace discrimination based on religion, race, ethnicity, country of origin, or color. This ban on discrimination applies to all aspects of employment such as hiring, firing, job assignments, and pay.

Under the law, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to their employees’ religious observations. That is, unless permitting an employee to practice their religion through brief breaks to pray or to dress in a certain way places an undue hardship on the business, the business is required to permit the employee to do so.

New Protections for Employees Who Wear Hijabs

Many Muslim women prefer to wear a head covering known as a hijab as part of practicing their faith. The new EEOC guidelines make it clear that discriminating solely because one wears a head covering for religious purposes is illegal. Only if wearing a religious head covering interferes with the actual performance of the employee’s job could an employer legally require the employee to not wear one.

So, it would likely be illegal to deny a job applicant a job because she wore a hijab. Similarly, it would be improper to assign such an employee to a role without public interaction to avoid having customers see or interact with the hijab-wearing employee.

Religious Protections for Temp Workers

The EEOC rules apply to all workers whether part-time, full-time, or temporary workers. If a temp employment agency assigns a minority, such as a woman who wears a hijab to a job assignment and the employer rejects that employee because of the hijab, then the temp agency must attempt to explain the legal requirements of equal employment opportunity rules at the state and Federal levels. Additionally, the temp agency is required to attempt to place the worker in a similar position. Further, the EEOC suggests that the temp agency refuse to place another worker with the offending employer/client.

Religious Harassment Under the New EEOC Guidelines

Employers should also be careful not to condone religious harassment of employees. If an employer fails to take reasonable steps to prevent or stop harassment by individual employees then the employer itself may be found liable for violating the law. Employers should be sure to have clear and strict policies that ban workplace discrimination. And more importantly, the employer needs to enforce those policies.

Religious Discrimination Laws and Resources

  • Facts About Religious Discrimination via EEOC.gov
  • EEOC New Religious Discrimination Guidelines: Questions and Answers via EEOC.gov
  • Examples of Religious Discrimination at Work
  • California Fair Employment and Housing Act Description via DFEH.CA.gov

If you feel your employer is violating the new EEOC religious discrimination guidelines, then you should get in touch with an experienced employment attorney to help preserve your rights. Contact our passionate California employment lawyers at Hennig Ruiz for your free consultation today.