- Greyhound Lines, Inc. violated federal law when it refused to accommodate a bus driver's request to wear religious attire in accordance with her beliefs as a Muslim, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a recently filed lawsuit.
- According to the EEOC, the driver applied for a job at Greyhound's Baltimore facility and told the supervisor during the interview that her religious beliefs require her to wear a headscarf and a loose-fitting, ankle length overgarment called an "abaya" that conceals the wearer's body. She was hired and said the supervisor told her that her religious beliefs would be accommodated. However, Greyhound refused to let her to wear the abaya, claiming it would be a safety hazard, and proposed that she wear a knee-length skirt over pants. EEOC said the driver was "compelled to quit" because the skirt-and-pants uniform suggestion conflicted with her religious practice of wearing modest dress.
- In refuting Greyhound's claim, EEOC said the driver successfully completed both her commercial driving training and all Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration examinations while wearing the abaya; she also wore it during previous employment as a tractor-trailer driver.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs unless doing so would pose an undue hardship for the employer, such as excessive cost or compromising workplace safety.
EEOC says that in questions of religious accommodation, undue hardship has been defined by courts as a "more than de minimis" cost on the operation of the employer's business — a lower standard than the undue hardship defense to disability accommodation associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, an employer may bar an employee's religious dress or grooming practice based on workplace safety, security or health concerns, according to the agency.
Common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions and job reassignments; an exception to a uniform or grooming policy can also be a religious accommodation. Such accommodations can include allowing religious dress (such as a Muslim headscarf) or grooming practices (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard) that an employee engages in for religious reasons, EEOC has explained.
The agency says managers and supervisors should be trained that the law may require making a religious exception to an employer's dress code or grooming rules, and that they should not engage in stereotyping about work qualifications based on religious dress and grooming practices. In addition to training, experts have said employers should prioritize a culture of inclusion and respect and watch out for unconscious biases.