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Employers ignore religious accommodation laws at their peril

Pennsylvania employers may avoid costly litigation by being aware of their employees' legal rights as it relates to adhering to religious beliefs. A South Carolina company was taken to court by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because it refused to hire through a temporary employment agency a Pentecostal women who refused to wear pants. She asked to be allowed to wear skirts because her religious beliefs required her to.

In the lawsuit, the EEOC claims that discrimination occurred because the employer would not discuss a possible accommodation for the woman. Company policy dictated that employees were to wear pants while on the manufacturing floor. Typically, a company must accommodate a worker's religious beliefs assuming that they are sincerely held and that such an accommodation wouldn't place an undue burden on the organization. In the case involving Akebono Brake Corp., the woman in question had asked to wear an ankle length skirt in lieu of pants.

In the past, the EEOC has taken action against companies that have not allowed Pentecostal women to wear skirts while at work. A case against a KFC franchisee in North Carolina was settled for $40,000 in April 2014. In addition, the franchisee also agreed to mandatory manager training and other unspecified relief.

Employment discrimination can come in a variety of forms, all of which can be devastating. As this case demonstrates, it can arise at the interview level as well as after the victim has been employed. Those who feel that they have been unfairly targeted may want to seek the advice and counsel of an employment law attorney in order to learn what recourse they may have.

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