Carney R. Shegerian, founder of Shegerian & Associates, a Santa Monica-based law firm specializing in employee rights, has issued a statement commending the California State Government for implementing Assembly Bill 1964, otherwise known as the California Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 (“WRFA”), amending the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). The amendments went into effect on January 1 of this year and they prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion (or religious creed) and require accommodation of employees’ religious practices and observances.
AB 1964 specifies that, for purposes of employment discrimination law (including accommodation), “religious belief or observance” now includes religious dress and grooming practices. The Bill also provides that an accommodation for religious practices is not reasonable if it requires segregation of an employee from customers or the general public.
“In the last few years there has been a surprising and unfortunate number of high profile cases pertaining to religious discrimination in the workplace, indicating that this form of discrimination remains an all-too-common scenario,” said Shegerian. “We applaud the State of California for taking this huge step forward. No employees should ever be discriminated against due to their religious beliefs – that is a given – but that this Bill helps extend the understanding of religious discrimination to include the employees’ hair and clothing for religious purposes, goes a long way to protect each employee’s individual rights.”
Shegerian warns that the religious freedom of individuals can and should be protected by law, and he warns organizations that any form of discrimination or harassment of these employees can lead to harsh financial consequences or worse.