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PRESS RELEASE
3-6-14

EEOC Issues New Publications on Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace

Practical Guides Will Assist Employers and Employees

WASHINGTON- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today issued two new technical assistance publications addressing workplace rights and responsibilities with respect to religious dress and grooming under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The question-and-answer guide, entitled "Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities," and an accompanying fact sheet, provide a user-friendly discussion of the applicable law, practical advice for employers and employees, and numerous case examples based on the EEOC's litigation. 

Employers covered by Title VII must make exceptions to their usual rules or preferences to permit applicants and employees to follow religiously-mandated dress and grooming practices unless it would pose an undue hardship to the operation of an employer's business.  When an exception is made as a religious accommodation, the employer may still refuse to allow exceptions sought by other employees for secular reasons. 

Topics covered in the publications include: 

  • prohibitions on job segregation, such as assigning an employee to a non-customer service position because of his or her religious garb;
  • accommodating religious grooming or garb practices while ensuring employer workplace needs;
  • avoiding workplace harassment based on religion, which may occur when an employee is required or coerced to forgo religious dress or grooming practices as a condition of employment; and
  • ensuring there is no retaliation against employees who request religious accommodation.

Religious discrimination charges relating to a wide range of issues have steadily increased.  In fiscal year 2013, the Commission received 3,721 charges alleging religious discrimination, more than double the 1,709 charges received in fiscal year 1997.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.