Burger King recently agreed to pay $25,000 to Ashanti McShan to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). McShan, a devout Pentecostal teenager, wears only skirts, in fulfillment of a Biblical teaching. Although Burger King initially told McShan she would be able to to wear a skirt in contravention of the company’s dress code, when she actually arrived to work in a skirt, she was told to return home.
California law today
Federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against people in the workplace. Examples of illegal religious discrimination include forcing employees to participate in a religious ritual, requiring members of a certain religion to perform extra tasks, and refusing to hire people who embrace a particular religion. California law states that employers must make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious requirements, unless doing so would cause undue hardship.
New California law expands the protection
The California Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 (WRFA) adds to the protections for religious employees by expanding the definition of religious beliefs. The Act forbids segregating religious employees from others when attempting to accommodate their religion. It also introduces a more stringent standard for "undue hardship."
Definition of religious beliefs
The WRFA clearly states that religious dress and clothing are included in the definition of religious beliefs and observances. WRFA provides that religious dress should be understood broadly to include donning or carrying religious clothing, face coverings, head coverings, jewelry and other items that are part of religious observances.
No segregating religious employees
California law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious beliefs. WRFA says an accommodation for an employee is unreasonable if it requires segregating the employee from other staff or customers.
The new undue burden
A stricter standard under the WRFA requires employers to show that accommodating a person’s religious beliefs would cause significant difficulty or expense. The following factors are examined to evaluate the extent of the expense:
Type of accommodation and the cost of compliance
Resources of the facilities
Economic strength of the company
Type of operations of the company
Physical layout of the facility
If you think you’ve been the victim of religious discrimination, you can sue, under California law.