by Sayema Hameed
On January 1, 2013, California bill AB 1964, the “Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012,” went into effect. AB 1964, signed into law by California Governor Jerry Grown, amends California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) to explicitly state that religious dress and grooming practices are covered by FEHA’s protections against religious discrimination.
Specifically, AB 1964 expands FEHA’s definition of “religious creed,” “religion,” “religious observance,” “religious belief,” and “creed” to include religious dress and grooming practices.
“Religious dress practice” includes the wearing or carrying of religious clothing, head or face coverings, jewelry, artifacts, and any other item that is part of the observance by an individual of his or her religious creed. This definition would include hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes. “Religious grooming practice” includes all forms of head, facial, and body hair that are part of the observance by an individual of his or her religious creed. Cal. Gov’t Code Section 12926(p).
The amended law also states that an “accommodation of an individual’s religious dress practice or religious grooming practice is not reasonable if the accommodation requires segregation of the individual from other employees or the public.” Cal. Gov’t Code Section 12940(l)(2).
You can read AB 1964 here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201120120AB1964