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California Passes Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment

According to the bill, this amendment to the Fair Employment and Housing Act AB 1964 would clarify that undue hardship, as defined in the Definitions section of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, will also apply to the Religious Discrimination section, clearing up legal confusion of federal vs. state definitions of “undue hardship”. The bill would also specify that religious clothing and hairstyles qualify as a religious belief or observance and that segregating an employee from customers or the public is not a reasonable accommodation of an employee’s religious beliefs now protects “religious dress practice” shall be construed broadly to include the wearing or carrying of religious clothing, head or face coverings, jewelry, artifacts, and any other item that is part of the observance by an individual of his or her religious creed. “Religious grooming practice” shall be construed broadly to include all forms of head, facial, and body hair that are part of the observance by an individual of his or her religious creed.

The bill, sponsored by The Sikh Coalition would clarify that undue hardship, as defined in the Definitions section of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, will also apply to the Religious Discrimination section, clearing up legal confusion of federal vs. state definitions of “undue hardship”. The bill would also specify that religious clothing and hairstyles qualify as a religious belief or observance and that segregating an employee from customers or the public is not a reasonable accommodation of an employee’s religious beliefs.

To learn more about the bill’s passage, go to http://asmdc.org/members/a08/religious-freedom?layout=category  To read an interesting article chronicling the passage of the bill go to http://www.hyphenmagazine.com/blog/archive/2012/08/what-unity-looks-ab-1964

All in an EEOC Week

The EEOC is proud of its lawsuits. I used to be proud of mine too…until I realized thy cause more damage than good…even where there was bad conduct. According to the EEOC’s press release page these are the claims from just one week:

EEOC Sues Owner of Golden LivingCenter – Dartmouth for Disability Discrimination 3/19/12

Agricultural Supplier Olam Settles EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Suit for $140,000 in Fresno 3/15/12

Warren Tricomi to Pay $30,000 to Settle EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Suit 3/15/12

Hal Leonard to Pay $150,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Charge 3/14/12

Family Video to Pay $70,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit 3/14/12

Sterling and Sterling to Pay $120,000 to Settle EEOC Suit for Retaliation 3/14/12

EEOC Sues GGNSC Administrative Services For Disability Discrimination 3/13/12

Menorah House Settles EEOC Religious Discrimination Lawsuits 3/12/12

As you can see from the titles, disability and pregnancy leave have been major targets. Employers must do two things to better manage these claims: First, take disability requests and harassment complaints seriously. If you don’t know what to do, then get help. Secondly, get Employment Practices Liability Insurance. See the checklist on HR That Works. I bet every one of the companies sued that didn’t purchase it wishes it had.  Also understand this – these settlements and verdicts are LESS than they would be if brought by private attorneys in state courts.