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When a dress code is illegal in New York

For the most part, an employer may mandate that a worker wear a certain uniform while on the clock. If an employee needs or wants to wear something outside of that dress code for religious purposes, an employer is generally required to make reasonable accommodations. However, the employer is not required to do anything that would cause an undue hardship to the company.

In a case brought against Abercrombie and Fitch by a woman who says that she was denied a job due to her religious headscarf, the Supreme Court will decide what constitutes an undue hardship. Some believe that instituting the dress code and using that as a basis to hire or not hire an applicant is essentially religious discrimination. While Abercrombie claims it was within its rights because the dress code applied to everyone, the law may not be on its side.

This is because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employees to take into account religious beliefs when enforcing such a dress code. Therefore, it would not matter whether or not everyone in the company was required to conform to it. While the company also claims that enforcing a standard dress code adheres to customer preferences, that is often not enough to ban religious articles of clothing to be worn while an employee is on the clock.

Employers who make a hiring decision based on what an employee wears for religious reasons may be guilty of employment discrimination. Employees or job applicants who have been the victim of such discrimination may wish to talk to an attorney. An attorney may help that person win compensation in the form of punitive damages or lost wages. It may also be possible to win reinstatement or a job offer from the company.

Source: The Atlantic, "Segregating Workplaces by Religion," Dawinder S. Sidhu, March 3, 2015

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