A recent published opinion from the New Jersey Appellate Division recognizes that although the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ sincerely held religious belief, that requirement does not apply when the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
Linda Tisby began working for the Camden County Correctional Facility (“Camden”) in 2002. In 2015, she began practicing the Sunni Muslim faith. In May 2015, she came to work wearing a Muslim khimar, which is a tight fitting head covering, but without a veil. However, Camden has a policy regarding uniforms which prohibits employees from wearing any hats other than the ones issued by their departments. Accordingly, Ms. Tisby’s supervisor told her she was violating Camden’s uniform policy, and could not work unless she removed her khimar. When Ms. Tisby refused, her supervisor sent her home. After this happened three more times, Camden suspended her for two days.
Camden then told Ms. Tisby that it considered her to have requested an accommodation for her religious belief pursuant to the LAD. But while the employer recognized Ms. Tisby had a sincerely held religious belief, it denied her request on the basis that it would “constitute an undue hardship to the Department to allow an officer to wear head-coverings or other non-uniform clothing.” Since Ms. Tisby refused to work without wearing her khimar, Camden fired her.