Target: California State Senate
Goal: Protect freedom of religion in the workplace in California.
A bill recently passed in the California State Assembly, which will soon face vote in the state Senate, strikes through the ambiguity of religious protection in the workplace by drawing clear distinctions around the issue of religious garb. Faith-based discrimination within businesses has increased recently, highlighting the need for more precise protective legislation. California’s Senate has a constitutional and ethical duty to reduce the occurrence of such discrimination and must honor that obligation with passage of this bill.
Put forth by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, the bill would mandate protection of religious clothing in the workplace under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Civil rights groups have sponsored the legislation along with the Sikh Coalition, the Hindu American Foundation and the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Almost nothing is more polemical, nor more politicized, than issues of religion in the U.S. public and political landscape. While fundamental freedom of religion is a basic right guaranteed to all citizens, the judiciary is often strained to define explicit boundaries for individuals and businesses in the more hazy areas of religious liberty.
Yamada’s bill aims to refocus those grey areas. Specifically, the bill protects the right to wear turbans, hijabs, kirpans and religiously mandated hairstyles. The law also forbids segregating an employee from a customer if that employee is wearing one of the aforementioned religious headwear. Laws currently exist which prohibit discrimination due to religious headwear, however businesses can circumvent the law by declaring that the accommodation imbues a financial burden upon the company.
Should this bill pass and be approved by the Governor of California, businesses would then have to prove considerable financial burden if they are to deny the freedom to wear religious headwear in the work environment. The bill comes at a time when discrimination based on religious freedoms (or lack thereof) increased by almost ten percent in 2011. According to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report, religious discrimination cases numbered 100,000 across the country in 2011.
Stand with California’s lawmaker’s in combating this trend by signing the petition and promoting equal opportunity in the workplace for Californians of all faiths.
Dear California State Senators,
With religious discrimination cases across the nation on the rise, it is imperative that California make a concerted effort to curb this trend. By passing AB 1964, authored by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, California will take a genuine step in that direction, while also sending a message to the rest of the country. Religious freedoms must be honored and protected, especially in the workplace.
Currently, businesses can bypass certain religious freedom laws by announcing that accommodating religious garb in the work environment induces a financial burden upon the company. This act in itself raises issues of religious prejudice and it is an unfortunate byproduct of legislative ambiguity.
AB 1964, explicitly lays out the religious headwear that must be protected and prohibits employers from undue discrimination against workers who are called to wear such clothing by their faith. Help reduce the inequities faced by people of faith in the workplace and honor the right to equal opportunity employment by passing this bill.
[Your Name Here]