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Steps businesses can take to adhere to religious accommodations

In Texas and across the United States, the landscape is changing rapidly in how employees are treated on the job. Granted greater freedom to express themselves without fear of having it impact their employment, this is generally beneficial. Also, the increase in oversight when employees are mistreated as well as media coverage has been a positive. Still, employers do have certain rights to make rules, discipline employees and have a professional-looking workplace. In many instances, allegations of discrimination are simply a matter of policy that employers can legally implement. There is, however, nuance to these issues.

What employers can require without accusations of religious discrimination

With religious accommodations, it can be confusing and employers must know what they can and cannot do in terms of dress codes and grooming. The business needs are part of an employer’s decision whether to let a worker dress in a way that will adhere to their religion, but could present a danger in the workplace. For example, if a person is wearing a piece of clothing in a warehouse environment where machinery is present and the clothing could get caught in it and present danger, then that can be prohibited.

Many workplaces have a requirement that their employees present themselves well and have a “neat and clean” appearance. While this may sound arbitrary, it might generally mean that they keep any faith-inspired facial hair or long hair trimmed sufficiently and they look professional. If an employee is asserting that the employer is being unreasonable about the policy but the employer is allowing the worker to adhere to their religious requirements, then this could be a viable defense against allegations of discrimination. A key is that the rules are standardized based on the employee’s role. There can be differences for workers who are involved with the public and those who are not.

Adhering to religious accommodation while being legally protected

From the employer’s perspective of employment law, many workplaces implement policies that serve their interests. This is not an attempt to deny workers’ rights. They can also set their own rules about appearance, clothing and other issues. In many instances, an accusation of religious discrimination is a misunderstanding that can be discussed and settled amicably. However, if there are accusations of discrimination or employers are trying to follow the law when putting their policies in place, it is wise to have legal assistance to address these challenges.