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IMA Human Resources Blog

In the Lion’s Den: Illinois Enacts “Religious Garb” Law

Pautsch, Spognardi & Baiocchi Legal Group LLP is an IMA member labor relations attorney…

In August, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed an amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act known as the “Religious Garb Law.”   The amendment clarifies the IHRA to prohibit employers from imposing dress codes that would cause an employee to violate or forgo a sincerely held practice of his or her religion, including but not limited to, the “wearing of any attire, clothing, or facial hair in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion.”

The law states that it does not prohibit an employer from enacting a dress code or grooming policy that may include restrictions on attire, clothing, or facial hair to maintain workplace safety or food sanitation.  An employer may also maintain policies prohibiting attire or facial hair if failing to do so would result in an undue hardship to the employer’s business.

The amendment, while clarifying the IHRA, does not impose any new obligations on the employer that do not already exist under the Act’s reasonable accommodation requirements.  Nor does it impose any new obligations that do not already exist under the Title Vll of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Illinois employers should nevertheless review their handbooks and policies to make sure they are current and lawful in this area.  Employers should remember that this area of the law, like disability discrimination law, requires the employer to take affirmative steps to “reasonably accommodate” religious obligations that may conflict with employer work rules.


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