Q. We let a female cashier at our restaurant wear a religious head covering, despite our policy against hats. Now, a male employee has started wearing a camouflage cap, claiming his religious idol is Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty.” He says his “religion” is sincere. Can we tell him to remove the cap? — C.B., Virginia
A. Probably yes. Although employers can make only limited inquiries into what constitutes a “sincerely held” religious belief, federal guidance makes it clear that employers need not accept requests for accommodation when the assertion is suspect. This includes the employee’s past actions and the timing of the request. (Read the EEOC’s definition of a “sincerely held” belief.)
It sounds as though this employee never asked to wear a cap before his co-worker was allowed to wear a head covering. So the timing is suspect, as well as his earlier behavior in not seeking to wear a cap. Also, if the employee is wearing his cap in protest of the female employee’s accommodation, be alert to possible religious harassment.