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Coalition Works to Protect Religious Employees

WASHINGTON (RNS) A coalition of religious and civil liberty groups is pushing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to stop employers from segregating “visibly religious employees from customers and the general public.”

In a March 25 letter submitted to the EEOC, the groups asked the agency to “exercise its regulatory authority” and enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on religion.

The organizations are concerned that adherence to religious dress can cause segregation for employees, citing examples of a Muslim woman in a headscarf or a Sikh man in a turban, where courts ruled for employers who segregated those employees for their attire.

“We are troubled by these misinterpretations and the discriminatory impact they have on individuals whose religious observance encompasses adherence to dress and grooming requirements,” the letter said.

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The 25 co-signers, including the Interfaith Alliance, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, presented three ways for the EEOC to be more aggressive in enforcement.

The EEOC must enhance training on the guidelines for “inappropriate segregation” already in place; make enforcement a priority; and clarify that it is never appropriate to separate religious employees from customers to save a “corporate image” the letter said.

- RICHARD YEAKLEY, Religion News Service

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