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Fighting religious discrimination in the workplace

When people in California talk about discrimination, most of the conversation veers toward racial, sex and LGBTQ discrimination. However, one other aspect of workplace discrimination that deserves more attention is religious discrimination. Some companies have found new ways to avoid hiring or promoting workers that belong to certain faiths by creating restrictions based on dress codes for some positions.

Business Insider reports that in 2018, UPS paid $4.9 million to employees for alleged discrimination that followed this formula. The company’s uniform policy restricted male employees from having facial hair below the lips or growing their hair beyond collar-length. While the rule did not apply to workers who worked in the back-office, it did mean employees could not hold certain jobs, which restricted upward mobility in the company. UPS employees who practiced Rastafarianism, Islam, Sikhism, Orthodox Christianity and similar faiths all suffered the consequences. Native Americans were also affected.

While big companies like UPS must abide by Title VII in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, smaller companies may fly under the radar. Forbes notes that according to federal law, only employers with 15 or more employees need to abide by these rules. However, some states do set laws with tighter restrictions. In California, companies with five or more employees face similar restrictions.

Small businesses may be especially likely to violate these laws because they have less resources. Many operate without an HR department or trained HR professional that understand the laws related to hiring and discrimination. However, even if for no other reason than to avoid costly lawsuits, these companies need to invest the time and money into ensuring their hiring and promotion processes are fair.

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