Religious discrimination has been in the news a lot recently. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) just filed a lawsuit against the United States’ largest package delivery company, UPS (United Parcel Service, Inc.) based on claims of religious discrimination.
The EEOC alleges that the UPS uniform and appearance policy conflicts with employee’s civil rights to observe their religious practices. Numerous employees were denied hiring or promotions as a result of the UPS policy, when in fact their hair and beards were an aspect of their religious practices.
Examples include a Muslim who applied for a driver helper position in Rochester, N.Y. He wore a beard as part of his religious practice and was told he had to shave his beard and that God would understand if he shaved his beard to obtain a higher paying job. He was eligible for a lower paying job if he decided not to shave the beard. The EEOC found instances at other facilities where Muslims and Christians were forced to shave their beards against their religious beliefs. In addition, a Rastafarian holding a part-time supervisor position in Fort Lauderdale did not cut his hair as part of his religious observance. When he requested a religious accommodation for the appearance policy, the manager told him he did not want any “employees looking like women on his management team.”
The EEOC claims when employees requested religious accommodations for particular positions that UPS put them on hold for years.
When religious accommodations create no undue hardship for an employer, failure to make the accommodation is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. In this case, UPS has consistently upheld an appearance policy without making accommodations for employees’ religious practices. UPS employs more than 300,000 workers nationwide and operates in every state.
As a business owner, at the first sign of discrimination issues, it is wise to consult with an experienced employment defense attorney for legal advice. Stephen Hans & Associates brings extensive legal experience to the table when defending your rights as an employer and can provide you with valuable legal guidance.