While it is generally lawful for an employer to develop and implement dress codes and uniform policies, the employer must be mindful of employees' right to practice their religion and wear clothing that comports with their religious beliefs and practices, or else it may face a religious discrimination claim. In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Fries Restaurant Management, LLC d/b/a Burger King, Fries Restaurant Management (Fries) agreed to pay $25,000 to a teen employee who was asked to leave work because she wore a skirt instead of the required uniform of black pants.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had filed the religious discrimination claim against Fries, which owns and operates a Burger King in Grand Prairie, Texas, on behalf of Ashanti McShan (McShan). McShan allegedly asked to wear a skirt due to her Pentecostal faith, which follows the biblical passage that "a woman shall not wear that which pertained unto a man." McShan claimed that she was granted a religious accommodation and was assured she could wear a skirt to work. However, when she arrived for orientation, management informed her that she could not wear a skirt and had to go home. McShan attempted to contact higher management, but her phone calls were not returned and she was not asked to return to work.
In addition to the monetary settlement in which McShan will receive $20,000 for mental anguish and nonwage damages and $5,000 in lost wages, Fries agreed to post its religious discrimination and accommodation policy on employee bulletin boards in every Burger King it operates in Texas. Fries also agreed to provide antidiscrimination training, with a special emphasis on religious discrimination, to all district managers and general managers at all of its Texas Burger King restaurants for the next two years.
Advice for Employers
Under Title VII and similar state and local laws, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees and applicants based on their religious beliefs or practices and are required to grant reasonable accommodations if doing so would not cause the employer's business undue hardship. An example of undue hardship would be a safety concern or higher cost to the employer. In this case, there would have been no monetary cost to the employer if it had permitted the employee to honor her religious beliefs and wear a skirt, instead of pants. As such, employers should have a strict religious discrimination policy and a religious accommodation policy. Further, employers should carefully consider each request for religious accommodation and gather all relevant facts before deciding whether to grant or deny the requested accommodation. Further, employers should make sure that all those with supervisory and management responsibilities are aware of their obligations when it comes to religious accommodation requests.
Employee Management > EEO - Discrimination
Religious Accommodation Policy
How to Handle an Employee's Request for Religious Accommodation
How to Prevent Religious Discrimination
Religious Accommodation Evaluation Form
Religious Accommodation Response Form
Religious Accommodation Request and Action Form
How to Deal With an Employee Who Violates the Dress Code
Dress Codes and Appearance Policies in the Workplace - Supervisor Briefing