Specific workplace laws protect employees in Michigan from religious discrimination. The harassment and mistreatment of workers because of their religious beliefs can take many forms. One specific area where employees might experience discrimination involves workplace dress and grooming codes. Although these workplace rules often arise for valid reasons, the law requires employers to be flexible unless it would cause undue business hardship.
For example, some people’s religious practices require them to wear specific garments, like headscarves or yarmulkes, or prohibit them from wearing pants or short skirts. Others might have to wear their hair or beards in certain ways, as is the case for Rastafarians and Sikhs. Whenever reasonable, employers must accommodate the personal apparel and grooming needs of their employees. An employee may request an accommodation for religious dress or hairstyle, and the law obligates an employer to grant dress and grooming code exemptions. Employers may only deny such requests if accommodation undermines workplace safety and efficiency, violates other workers’ rights or shifts work burdens to other staff members.
In addition to attacks on personal appearance, religious discrimination can involve denying people time off for their religious observances or forcing them to participate religious activities outside of their beliefs. Refusal to hire, demotions and wrongful termination also could break the law when motivated by religious prejudice.
Being mistreated because of religious beliefs can inflict financial harm and impact mental health. A conversation with an attorney may inform a person about how to respond to illegal workplace conduct. An attorney might evaluate the evidence and conclude that it does reach the level of violating law. To address workplace discrimination, an attorney may inform the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, initiate negotiations for a settlement, or possibly file a lawsuit.