In recent California labor and employment news, there have been a number of religious discrimination lawsuits in the California workplace--where employees have sued their employers for harassment and discrimination based on their religious beliefs and practices.
According to the Sacramento Bee, in 2011, the state of California faced over 500 cases of religious discrimination. Vincent Howard has reported on a number of these religious discrimination lawsuits in Howard Law's Santa Ana, California employment lawyers blog, a number of which discuss discrimination based on the Muslim religion, where Muslim employees claim to have been discriminated against for wearing religious garments like a hijab, or headscarf. In the past year companies such as AT&T, Disney, and Abercrombie & Fitch have all faced lawsuits accusing employers of discrimination against the Muslim religion, and for not allowing employees to wear headscarves.
Last month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills that fight religious discrimination in the workplace, especially against Muslims and Sikhs in the golden state. Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1964, the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, that ensures that under California law, employers are restricted from discriminating against employees who wear religious clothing, such as turbans or hijabs. The law takes effect on January 1, 2013, and also prohibits the segregation of the employees from customers or the public.
According to Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) who introduced the bill, the Workplace Religious Freedom Act affords workers equal protection who wear religious clothing or hairstyles--and stops employers from separating their employees from other co-workers, or from keeping Muslim employees out of sight from the public as a means of accommodation. The new law requires that employers reasonably accommodate their employees' religious practices, which includes dressing and grooming as protected observances, unless this involves a significant expense or difficulty to the company.