EEOC Sues Employer, Claiming It Unreasonably Failed to Accommodate Woman’s Religiously Motivated Garb

The woman — who worked for a Burger King franchisee — sought an exemption from the employer’s uniform dress requirement, and the employer apparently refused to give the exemption; see the complaint for details.

Judging by the complaint, and assuming its statement of facts is correct, the EEOC likely has a good case. As I noted before, an employer must give religious employees special exemptions from generally applicable job requirements if the requirements interfere with an employee’s sincerely felt religious obligations and such an exemption doesn’t impose “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j); TWA v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63 (1977). The EEOC and most lower courts have agreed that this applies not just to religious objectors but also people who have “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views,” 29 C.F.R. § 1605.1 (adapting the Welsh v. United States standard). See, e.g., Protos v. Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 797 F.2d 129 (3d Cir. 1986).

And granting an exemption from uniform requirements is generally not seen as creating an undue hardship, unless the employee’s proposed dress is likely to pose a safety risk (improbable here) or if the employer is an entity such as the police, where public confidence in the employer’s impartiality is seen as being undermined by an exemption (again, not applicable here).