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Can your boss legally fire you for wearing your religious garb?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2023 | Employment Law |

Modern American society encourages religious practitioners to express their faith through grooming practices and wardrobe choices. Unfortunately, some employers in the Andover region have failed to adopt this inclusive approach to religious freedom.

No Massachusetts employer may discriminate against workers who wear religious garb and hairstyles in the workplace. The only possible exception to this federal law is when allowing these practices would cause the employer undue hardships (excessive expenses, etc.). Undue hardship is not commonly a factor when allowing workers to practice their faith.

What is protected?

Say you never adhered to a specific religion and always wore a uniform or employer-approved wardrobe. After learning about the principles behind Rastafarianism, you felt an immediate connection and began to grow your hair into dreadlocks.

If your faith is sincere and you tell your employer the dreadlocks are for religious reasons, they cannot fire you for your grooming practices. Unless, of course, it causes an undue hardship.

More examples of protected religious practices in the workplace:

  • Hijabs and headscarves for Muslims
  • Sikh turbans and facial hair
  • No pants or short hems for orthodox Jewish women
  • Jewish sidelocks or peyes

It is unlawful for your boss to harass you or segregate you from others (discrimination) when practicing your faith at work.

Employers must also:

  • Address and stop your coworker harassment and discrimination
  • Allow time away to attend important religious events
  • Not retaliate against you for exercising your religious rights

Religious discrimination and harassment are complex legal matters. Although you have the right to seek a remedy for your mistreatment, it is wise to have legal guidance when pursuing a solution.