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Workplace dress codes and religious exceptions

When New Jersey residents apply for a job, they typically expect to learn about things like dress codes during their initial interview. While many people have no issues with conforming to dress code regulations, others may have difficulties due to religious convictions.

Some religious traditions may require adherents to dress in a specific way. This may include specific types of headwear, such as the hijab or a yarmulke. Others may place certain restrictions on the types of garments an individual can wear for the sake of modesty or religious identification.

In early November, the Equal Opportunity Commission filed a federal lawsuit against an automotive parts manufacturer charging it with religious discrimination in the case of instructing a temporary agency to not place a worker in its plant. The manufacturer's reason for not wanting to hire the worker was that she asked to wear a skirt, rather than pants, on the job. Her request was for religious reasons, as she belongs to a Pentecostal church that does not permit women or girls to wear pants of any type.

In its complaint, the EEOC argued that the automotive parts plant was guilty of religious discrimination because it never made any attempt to talk to the plaintiff about her situation. While employers can require employees to dress a certain way to meet safety standards, the lack of effort to work with the plaintiff was enough to trigger an investigation and lawsuit.

Individuals who believe that they have been the victim of workplace discrimination may benefit from speaking with an experienced employment law attorney. If the person is a member of a class protected by federal statutes, after reviewing the circumstances the attorney might suggest the filing of a claim with the EEOC.

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Lawrence N. Lavigne, Esq., L.L.C.
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