The Pentagon has indicated it will give troop commanders some flexibility in allowing religious-based exceptions to the military’s appearance requirements. Most notably, Sikhs, Muslims and Jews will now have an avenue to receive permission to wear beards and religious headwear.
Individual service members must request the accommodation and unit commanders have the option of rejecting the request if they deem granting it would affect unit cohesion or combat readiness. In the past, commanders worried that long hair and beards would prevent tight seals on gas masks.
Critics charge the change does not go far enough, noting that it grants no rights to accommodation and religious minorities are then placed at the whim of their commanders as they move through their military careers.
Note: Employers other than the military may reject religious accommodation requests if granting them would constitute an undue burden. Each accommodation must be evaluated on an individual basis.