A Pennsylvania woman working for a private security company says that she was wrongfully terminated from her job for refusing to remove her head scarf that she wore for religious reasons. The woman is a practicing Muslim and an EEOC lawsuit filed on her behalf accuses her former employer of religious discrimination.
The employer acknowledges that there was a strict uniform code in place and says that they offered the woman an alternative assignment but she declined. Unfortunately dress codes are not a legitimate excuse for religious discrimination, so the company may be liable for their misconduct in this case.
Pennsylvania employment law and federal employment laws both protect workers from careless discrimination like the conduct described in this case. Especially in circumstances where the religious observance has little or no impact on the employee's ability to do perform their job duties, there is little or no excuse than an employer can make to justify the discrimination.
The right to religious expression through clothing or personal grooming choices has often been protected under the First Amendment's right to free speech and prohibition on government interference with religion. Dress codes in workplaces and at schools have been the subject of significant litigation in this area and results are often favorable for the religious plaintiff who seeks free expression.
Pennsylvania employees who think that they have been the victims of religious discrimination at work should contact an employment law attorney with experience in this area of the law to find out if their rights were violated and what can be done to remedy the situation.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "EEOC alleges bias against Philadelphia woman," Jane M. Von Bergen, July 19, 2012.