Must an employee’s request to not cover his religious tattoos be accommodated?


Edward practices the Kemetic religion, an ancient Egyptian faith, and affiliates himself with a tribe numbering fewer than 10 members. He states that he believes in various deities and follows the faith's concept of Ma'at, a guiding principle regarding truth and order that represents physical and moral balance in the universe. During a religious ceremony, Edward received small tattoos encircling his wrist, written in the Coptic language, which express his servitude to Ra, the Egyptian god of the sun. His supervisor, Joel, believes all tattoos are indecent and ordered everyone in his department who had a tattoo to cover it. Edward asked to be an exception to this rule, explaining that it is a sin to cover his tattoos intentionally because doing so would signify a rejection of Ra. Must his accommodation request be granted?


Yes. While an employer may accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs by offering to have the employee cover the religious attire or item while at work, that may only be done if the employee’s religious beliefs permit covering the attire or item. Under Title VII, requiring an employee’s religious garb, marking, or article of faith to be covered is not a reasonable accommodation if that would violate the employee’s religious beliefs. In this instance, Edward has explained that covering his tattoos intentionally is a sin. Therefore, covering his tattoos is not a reasonable accommodation and he cannot be required to cover his tattoos absent undue hardship.

Source: EEOC Publication: “Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities,”, reported in Employment Practices Guide, New Developments ¶5397.

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