California Governor Signs Legislation Protecting Workers from Discrimination Based on a Religious Dress or Grooming Practice

Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Governor Jerry Brown of California signed a law protecting Sikh and Muslim workers from workplace discrimination.   The legislation amended the California Fair Employment and Housing Act which protects and safeguards the right and opportunity of all persons to seek, obtain, and hold employment without discrimination or abridgment on account of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, or sexual orientation.  An employer or other covered entity is required to reasonably accommodate the religious belief or observance of an individual unless the accommodation would be an undue hardship on the conduct of the business of the employer or other entity.
The law includes a religious dress practice or a religious grooming practice as a belief or observance covered by the protections against religious discrimination, and would specify that an accommodation of an individual’s religious dress practice or religious grooming practice that would require that person to be segregated from the public or other employees is not a reasonable accommodation. This means that California employers may not place Sikh and Muslim workers to back room jobs based on the employees' wearing turbans, beards and hijabs.  This Act is effective January 1, 2013.  
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