On September 8, 2012, Governor Brown approved amendments to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act that clarified and strengthened the religious accommodation protections of California law. The new law applies to all California employers with five or more employees and goes into effect January 1, 2013.
Under existing law, California employers are required to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs or observances of employees absent undue hardship. The new law clarifies that religious dress (e.g., clothing, jewelry and head or face coverings) and grooming practices (e.g., head, facial and body hair) are religious beliefs protected by law and entitled to accommodation, and that segregation of employees from the public view is not a reasonable accommodation.
According to the EEOC, religious discrimination claims rose by 9.5% in 2011, particularly with regard to members of the Sikh and Muslim communities.