Woman Who Was Fired For Wearing Sword To Work May Have Claim For Religious Discrimination

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that an Internal Revenue Service agent – Kawaljeet Tagore – may be able to bring a religious discrimination claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) against the government after she was fired for bringing a kirpah – a religious sword – to work. According to reports, the woman was fired after she converted to the Sikh religion and started wearing the weapon to work.

Federal law bans bringing dangerous weapons into federal facilities. However Tagore requested an exception to the law based on religious freedom.

If you have questions about religious discrimination or believe that you have been discriminated against because of your faith, you should consult with a dedicated Georgia employment discrimination attorney right away.

Title VII prohibits religious discrimination–that means your employer may not discriminate against you “because of” your religious beliefs. This also prohibits harassment based on your religious beliefs as well as retaliation against you for complaining about religious discrimination or for participating in someone else’s religious discrimination case.

The religious discrimination laws have three separate protections:

• Your employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate your religious beliefs and practices in the workplace;
• Your employer may not impose its religious views on you or permit your co-employees to impose their religious views on you; and • Your employer may not take adverse action against you (including harassment) because of your religious beliefs.

Similarly, the RFRA applies to federal workers and provides that “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” The only exceptions include where the law furthers a compelling government interest and does it in the least restrictive way.

In this instance, the Court of Appeals determined that the lower court made a mistake by categorically denying Tagore the opportunity to exercise her freedom of religion and allowing her to wear the weapon. The 5th Circuit Court noted that RFRA “requires the government to explain how [banning wearing a kirpah] furthers the compelling governmental interest.”

The lower court made an error by not specifically determining whether the government had a compelling interest in enforcing the statutory ban on weapons against Tagore. As a result, the case should be allowed to continue.

For more information about religious discrimination please contact the top Georgia discrimination attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.