Court spikes pierced worker's religious discrimination lawsuit

by on January 2, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Religious discrimination in the workplace can be expressed in many ways

If a worker’s facial piercings or other body modifications will negatively affect your firm’s public image, you have the right to terminate, unless the piercings come out – even if the employee claims removal is religious discrimination in the workplace.

Kimberly Cloutier, a cashier for a major retailer and a member of the Church of Body Modification, had 11 ear piercings when she began her job. The company permitted employees to have ear piercings, but forbade them from having facial piercings.

She rejected accommodations

Undeterred by her employer’s piercing policy, Cloutier got her eyebrow pierced. When asked by her boss to remove the offending stud, Cloutier refused.

As a CBM member, she claimed, her spiked face was part of her religion. She was sent home for the day, and returned to work the next day – with her piercing still in place.

Next, Cloutier was suspended for violating her employer’s dress code. When she returned, her employer offered a number of accommodations, such as wearing a band-aid to cover her facial jewelry.

But Cloutier wouldn’t budge. For her, the only acceptable accommodation was a total exemption from the rule. Cloutier sued filed an EEOC religious discrimination case.

In finding for the employer, the court said the only accommodation the employee considered reasonable would impose “undue hardship” on the employer, for whom personal appearance standards were necessary in order to protect and promote its image to customers and co-workers.

Employers should always try to make a reasonable accommodation, but when exempting an employee from a company policy would create hardship for the employer, all bets are off, as this religious discrimination in the workplace case points out.

Cite: Cloutier v. Costco.

Leave a Reply


Request a Free Demo

We'd love to show you how this industry-leading training system can help you develop your team. Please fill out this quick form or give us a call at 877-792-2172 to schedule your one-on-one demo with a Rapid Learning Specialist.