The issue of employers failing to make the necessary accommodations for the religious practices of employees has generated significant headlines over the last six months. Indeed, just last week we examined how Walt Disney World, one of Florida's larger employers, recently agreed to grant a Sikh worker the right to wear beard and turban after seven long years.
This issue once again made the news this week after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it was filing a lawsuit against Atlanta-based shipping giant United Parcel Service for violating the religious rights of both employees and prospective employees.
What does the EEOC lawsuit against UPS allege?
According to the complaint, UPS' uniform policy dictates that all male supervisors and male employees who interact with customers face-to-face cannot have beards and cannot grow their hair below their collar.
The EEOC alleges that for over a decade this policy has resulted in UPS failing to accommodate, hire or promote numerous Muslim, Christian and Rastafarian employees, and this, in turn, is tantamount to religious discrimination, which is strictly prohibited by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Does the EEOC provide any examples of this alleged religious discrimination?
The complaint provides multiple examples, including a New York man, who wears a beard in keeping with his Muslim faith, being informed by a UPS supervisor that "God would understand" if he shaved his beard to secure a job and that he could apply for a lower-paying position if he wished to keep his beard.
Another example given involves a Florida man who wears dreadlocks in keeping with his Rastafarian faith and worked as a loading supervisor being informed by a manger to cut his hair, as he "didn't want any employees looking like women."
What is the EEOC seeking in the lawsuit?
The lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District Court of New York, is seeking to secure both damages and back pay for affected UPS employees and prospective employees. In addition, the agency is seeking to amend the company's uniform policy to ensure there are no potentially discriminatory provisions.
Please stay tuned for updates and always remember that you don't have to tolerate workplace discrimination.