Just when you thought you’ve seen it all at work, here comes Stan to start his shift with what looks like a sieve on his head.
You: What the heck is that?!
Stan: It’s a pasta colander.
You: You’re not working the sales floor with that silly thing on your head!
Stan: Whoa! I’m a Pastafarian, and I have a right to adhere to my religious beliefs in the workplace.
You: You’re a what?
Stan: A Pastafarian. I’m a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I’m entitled to my beliefs and to wear Religious Headwear in Official Identification as a sincere believer in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
You: Not in here you’re not. You are aware of our dress and grooming code that forbids our associates to wear hats on the job.
Stan: Well, Max wears a yarmulke, and Aisha wears a hijab, and …
You: But those employees have real religious reasons to wear head coverings in the workplace. I don’t believe we have to accommodate cookware to be in compliance. Now I think you'd better leave that in the kitchen.
Before you take a side on this, here is some background to consider:
Recently, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles caved to Lindsay Miller of Lowell, Mass., who insisted she pose for her driver’s license photo wearing a pasta strainer on her head. Miller, a Pastafarian, said the head covering allows her to express her religious beliefs like other people do with their religions.
The Massachusetts RMV initially told Miller she could not wear the colander for her driver’s license. But Miller appealed and enlisted the help of an attorney who helped her win her case.
Head coverings are not allowed in license photos in Massachusetts, but exceptions are made for religious reasons, the RMV says.
Though not overly saturated with colander-wearing litigants, the legal landscape is dotted with a few such cases.
Consider that in 2013, a self-described Pastafarian was told to lose the strainer if he wanted a driver’s license in the state of New Jersey.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission merely said that a pasta strainer was not on its list of approved religious headwear.
What would you do if Stan showed up for work wearing a colander?
Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.