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Turbans, Hijabs Protected From Workplace Religious Discrimination

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 1964 into law prohibiting discrimination against workers who wear visible signs of their religion – like turbans or hijabs – in the workplace. The new law is aimed at protecting Muslim and Sikh workers from religious discrimination in the workplace but protects all employees in California from religion-based employment discrimination.

We first blogged about the new law when it was a bill in the California Assembly. Under the anti-religious discrimination law, employers cannot use segregation as an accommodation. A worker cannot be asked to stay in the back, out of the view of the public, simply because of a garment they wear for a religious purpose.

The new law also requires California employers to accommodate religious practices of all employees unless doing so would cause a “significant difficulty or expense” for the employer.

Rajdeep Singh, director of law and policy for the Sikh Coalition, believes the new law will go a long way toward protecting Sikhs from religious discrimination in the workplace. He hopes that it will also encourage law enforcement agencies and the prison system to reevaluate prohibitions on turbans and beards among employees, opening the door for Sikhs to enter those professions.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California is also behind the new law. It is representing a Muslim woman who was fired by Disney for wearing a head scarf to work. While the ACLU believes that it can already prove discrimination in her case, the new law just reinforces that how she was allegedly treated by Disney was improper.

The new workplace discrimination protections go into effect January 1, 2013.

Source: LA Times, “Bill protects religious garb, grooming in the workplace,” September 9, 2012

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