California Muslims may face employment discrimination, study says

California is a leader among the United States in ensuring that employees are treated fairly by their employers. Their guidelines concerning religious discrimination are much more strict than federal standards, as they make specific declarations that employers are not to discriminate against employees for their dress or how they groom themselves. Unfortunately, this does not mean that instances of employment discrimination don't still occur. Recently a woman who identifies as Muslim says that she was discriminated against by her employer, in violation of state laws.

The woman claims that when she applied for a job at a beauty supply store, she was not wearing her hijab -- a scarf that covers her hair meant to symbolize modesty in the Muslim religion. She began wearing it to work after she was hired, but her employer requested that she remove it and sent her home when she would not comply. She claims that although her employer eventually allowed her to work while wearing her hijab, she was sent to work in the back of the store and had her work hours reduced. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations recently filed a report noting that in California, it received over 900 complaints of workplace discrimination in the past year. According to the California Workplace Religious Freedom Act, employers must make reasonable allowances for employees in regard to their religious beliefs. This includes not only what employees wear, but allowing them time to observe their religious practices.

If employees feel that they have been harassed or discriminated against because of their religion -- or their gender, sexual orientation, race or other protected class -- they may choose to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They may also decide to file a civil claim of employment discrimination. A successful claim could result in monetary remuneration for the employee and send the message that employers are not permitted to behave in such a manner.

Source: kcet.org, "Are California's Laws Prohibiting Workplace Religious Discrimination Enough?", Sarah Parvini, Sept. 15, 2014

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