Religious Discrimination: Dress Code

EEOC BerwynSome religions dictate specific codes of dress and hygiene, which can cause employment issues for employees of these faiths. Employment law protects employees from religious discrimination, but harassment and termination still occur. Therefore, employees must know their rights under the law.

If you have experienced discrimination due to your religion, contact an employment lawyer today.

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Handling Religion in the Workplace

Employees can receive protection from religious discrimination if they subscribe to a particular religion and are treated differently due to that belief. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) specifies five religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but it also includes new and uncommon religions as well. The law also protects those employees who associate with religious people or are married to someone of that religion. The federal law extends these protections to all religions, not just well known ones.

Employment Aspects Protected from Discrimination

  • hiring and firing
  • training
  • wages
  • job assignments
  • promotions and benefits

Reasonable Accommodation

Not only does federal law protect employees from discrimination in all aspects of employment, it also requires that employers seek an interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodations are available to these employees. However, if an accommodation is viewed as an undue hardship, the employer may be released from offering certain accommodation. Some religions require that their followers pray at specific times of day, and an employer might be required to allow the employee a break at those times for prayer.

Dress Code

Some religions have rigid standards of dress. By law, employers are not permitted to discriminate against employees for their religious belief, including their commitment to their religious standards of dress. Conflict and tension can arise when an employer’s dress code differs from the standards set out by the employee’s religion. Employers must be careful to offer reasonable accommodation or face a complaint of religious discrimination.

Recognize Religious Discrimination

Sometimes the best way to learn how to recognize religious discrimination is to see examples of what religious discrimination can look like on a day to day basis. Of course, the best way to stand up for your employee rights is to understand when they are being violated. Learn from these examples to understand when religious discrimination might be occurring.

Aaron, an Orthodox Jew, takes his faith seriously in every area of his life, including his employment. He wears the traditional Tzitzit. His supervisor and coworkers ridicule him for his clothing and his faith. The ongoing harassment that continued, even after Aaron asks for relief, creates a hostile work environment based on religious discrimination.

Charina and Emily clean homes for the same company. Charina is a Buddhist while Emily is a Christian. The two women get along well, but Charina recently discovered that she’s paid a whole two dollars less than Emily. Since they started at the same time and come with similar experience, Charina believes that the wage difference is due to her religion.

Sheila, a Muslim, was hired to work call-in customer service. In the last year, she’s proved her resourcefulness and applied for a promotion for an interpersonal position. During her interview, she’s asked if she has to wear the hajib every day, and she confirms that it’s part of her religion. Another applicant with less qualifications and experience is given the role, and Sheila suspects that she was denied the position due to her hajib and therefore her religion.

Employment law outlines specific protections provided to employees with religious affiliations and associations. When you experience religious discrimination, it may be best to reach out to an employment lawyer to explore your options under the law. Don’t ignore discrimination or harassment in the hopes that it will go away.

Exceptions to Religious Discrimination Laws

In some cases, employment law on religious discrimination does not apply to certain organizations. Religious organizations with a clear religious purpose are exempted from the Title VII religious provisions. This means that a religious organization can choose to hire only applicants that share the religion of the organization.

EEOC’s Criteria for Determining a Primarily Religious Organization

  • Articles of incorporation include a religious purpose
  • Religious daily operations
  • Not for profit
  • Affiliation with a church or religious organization

Other exemptions exist for religious discrimination in certain situations. At state level, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) excludes religious corporations or associations from religious discrimination unless they are supported by government funding. Therefore, it’s important to know whether or not you are eligible within your company to file a complaint for religious discrimination or not.


If you have experienced religious discrimination at work, contact an employment lawyer who will know how to navigate your case and your rights under the law.

Don’t hesitate, talk to an attorney: (412) 626-5626 or