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How Illinois Law Protects Employees Who Are Fired Because of Religious Discrimination

May 11, 2020

Religious freedom and practices are protected in Illinois to ensure workers and job applicants can gain meaningful employment without facing discrimination. The laws may be strict, but they are not so stringent they can unnecessarily impede business operations.

Illinois Religious Discrimination Laws

While employers in Illinois can set proper dressing and grooming standards for employees, they cannot offend religious requirements. That is against the law, according to the Illinois Human Rights Act and this protection includes all aspects of a religious practice – as well as individuals’ beliefs and even atheism.

A few years ago, the Human Rights Act was also amended to include coverage according to dress and grooming policies in workplaces in Illinois. Known as the Religious Garb Law, it states no employer can protest an employee’s or a job applicant’s insistence on donning attire, facial hair and clothing, which are in accordance with their religious beliefs, rules and practices.

However, this does not include circumstances in which the business can face undue hardships because of an employee’s/applicant’s religious beliefs and practices. Plus, the law does not prevent employers from enforcing dress and grooming policies, which exclude clothing or facial hair that can compromise food sanitation or workplace safety.

What Employers Can Do

If an employee wears or asks to wear religious garb to the workplace, which violates a business’s dress and grooming policies, employers need to consider the following:

  • Recognize that such requests can take a number of forms when it comes to dress and grooming policies. These may also include certain types of jewelry or head gear or even refusal to wear certain clothing that violates religious beliefs and practices.

  • The most acceptable reasons to deny such requests include workplace safety, security and health concerns. However, employers can still try and accommodate requests and ensure they maintain the same stance for similar requests in the future by other employees.

  • The requests cannot be denied because of customer preferences or because of complaints from a co-worker.

What Employees Can Do

However, to ensure the previously mentioned protections are enforced, the following criteria must be met:

  • The employee must clearly explain why they need religious accommodation.

  • They should also explain how their religious requirements and job requirements can come into conflict during the course of their employment.

  • Employees must also be willing to accommodate their employers to prevent business hardships as much as they can.

  • The employee’s religious beliefs should be part of a real and existing religion to be deemed valid.

If you think your religious rights are being violated or you are being discriminated against in the workplace because of your beliefs, you have the right to sue your employer. If you are hesitant in coming forward because you fear for your job security, you are doing yourself a disservice. Get in touch with our lawyers at the Law Office of Michael T. Smith and share your concerns with us. We have been fighting for employee rights in Schaumburg, Illinois, for three decades and this includes the surrounding states.