When Wearing a Beard is a Sign of Worship
Monday, November 5, 2018
Posted by: Alyce Ryan
Written by: Christine V. Walters, JD, MAS, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, FiveL Company
I love my job. One reason is I learn something new almost every day. Years ago, there was a case of religious accommodation involving facial piercings and the Church of Body Modification. Another challenge made the news. A few years later, I learned about the Kemetic religion stemming from another lawsuit involving visible tattoos. Now, it is about the Norse Pagan religion. A recent article reports that a security officer was fired when he refused to shave his beard as part of a newly implemented dress code requirement. He has now filed a charge with the U.S. EEOC and obtained legal counsel, alleging he was discriminated against and not provided a reasonable accommodation in violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Lessons Learned? Whether it's hair style, facial piercings, visible tattoos, periodic breaks or time off from work (I am still waiting for a long fingernail case), when an employee tells you that s/he cannot comply with a policy because of the employee's religious observance, listen. Engage the employee in an interactive dialogue. If you are not familiar with the religion, learn about it. Do some research. Ask the employee for more information (Yes! You can ask!).
Tip: Remember, these issues often go hand-in-hand with charges and claims of discrimination based on race and national origin. Forbes just ran an article on this very issue as it relates to hair styles. For more tips, check out, "What You Should Know About Workplace Religious Accommodation" from the U.S. EEOC's website here.