Can I ask my employee to cover a religious facial tattoo that is not required by the religion?

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Can I ask my employee to cover a religious facial tattoo that is not required by the religion?

One of my employees recently got a tattoo of a pagan symbol on her forehead. This was done without prior conversation or acknowledgement. My employee handbook does

not specify about tattoos. There’s never been an issue in the past. We do state that we

want to uphold a professional and presentable look. The tattoo is not required by the

religion but was put there too to glorify it. We tried to stay religious neutral at our

business, which by the way is a small business if it matters. I’m afraid that this is going to offend and scare off a majority of our customers. Am I legally allowed to ask her to find a way to cover it? And what can I do if this results in revenue loss?

Asked on November 4, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, if the symbol and its tatooing upon the forhead is not a requirment of her religion, you may require her to cover it up at work (e.g. hat, bandana, wig, make-up, etc.) or else terminate her. The law only requires reasonable accommodation for religous mandates or requirements, not for an individual's voluntary choice to promote her faith. (Other example: an employer has to let a Jewish  employee wear a yalmuka, or a Muslim woman her veil or other covering, but neither would have any right to harass other people about their faith or criticize other employees for not following the Jews or Muslim's religous practices, like only eating kosher or halal food; only what is required by a religion is protected).


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