UnderCover Waitress: Job Discrimination or Company Policy?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Job Discrimination or Company Policy?

Wow. Just posted a blurb yesterday about Freedom of Speech, then I stumble upon this. See, this is the gray area around private employers requiring behavior/speech/dress. Religion is a protected status, as are sexuality, gender, age and disability.*

Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees and cannot discriminate against them based upon the above categories. For example, many businesses have wheelchair ramps and elevators to accommodate those who are confined to wheelchairs.

So this story is about a staged series of job interviews put on by actors. Diners in the restaurant don't know they are actors. The actor playing the restaurant manager interviews a Jewish actor wearing a yarmulke, a Muslim actress wearing her traditional head scarf, and a Sikh actor wearing a turban. Each interviewee is told s/he can have the job under one condition: strict adherence to the dress code. The dress code does not allow for any religious clothing or head covering.
Me doing my
lunch shift dance.

Illegal? I think so. A good case could be made for the illegality of not accommodating an employee who wishes to wear a religious head covering that does not interfere with his or her ability to perform the job well. Now, if I belonged to a religion in which I was required to dance naked around a bonfire from noon to 12:30 every day, argument could be made that I should avoid the lunch shift. But wearing a yarmulke? Get real.

The sad thing is that the experiment displayed many prejudiced people who sided with the manager. Any bets on if a waitress was told she was not allowed to wear her gold confirmation cross, the same people would think the manager was being too harsh? Bear in mind the Christian religion does not require the jewelry; other religions require head covering.

This story resonated with me on a deep, personal level. I am a Jew. Remember one year, many years back, a manager announced that anybody who worked Christmas Eve would work on New Year's Eve. See, everybody wanted to work New Year's Eve for the tips, but most employees wanted Christmas Eve off with their families. I worked Christmas Eve. Guess what? Found out last minute that I wasn't working New Year's Eve, but the manager's friend who had not worked Christmas Eve was. That's so bloody illegal she should have been fired on the spot.

This was not the only stupid thing that --insert favorite expletive insult here-- did, and she ended up leaving in shame for many reasons. Good riddance.

Job Discrimination v. Company Policy

*I am not a lawyer, just a stupid waitress. ;-)

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