For most Californians, gainful employment is a necessity. After all, not only must you provide for yourself and your family, but you also want to put your talents to good use. Still, finding a job can be challenging. The religious headscarf you wear should not prevent you from landing your dream job, however.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants because of their sex, race, color, national origin or religion. The law applies to all U.S. employers with at least 15 employees. Furthermore, it specifically protects disparate treatment in the hiring process.
Protected religious garments
Federal law offers broad protections for religious expression. If you wear certain religious garments, such as a headscarf, prospective employers cannot legally refuse to hire you for that reason. The same is true for choosing to exercise religious beliefs in other ways, like through personal grooming. Nevertheless, if you wear religious garments for non-religious purposes, such as for fashion, Title VII likely does not apply.
Many employers know about anti-discrimination law. Therefore, an interviewer may not inform you that your religious wear is the reason that you did not get the job. Instead, he or she may give you a different reason. The explanation may be pretext, though. Fortunately, pretext does not allow employers to skirt their obligations under either Title VII or other applicable laws.
While you enjoy wide latitude to wear the religious garments you choose, there is an important exception. If your clothing is a safety risk, an employer may ask you to remove it. An employer may also legally choose not to hire you for a position if your garments may endanger you or others.
Finding a job is often hard enough without having to worry about facing discrimination during the interview phase. If you think that an employer has rejected you because of your religious garments, you must act quickly both to assert your legal rights and to protect your career.