Volume 28, Issue 1, Spring 2014
Claus Strue Frederiksen, Morten Ebbe Juul Nielsen
Do Anti-Discrimination Policies Sometimes Imply (Wrongful) Discrimination?
The (Alleged) Asymmetry between Religious and Secular Clothing
To claim that companies should not discriminate on the basis of race, gender or religion seems almost as trivial as stating that they should not use forced labor or dump radioactive waste into the local river. Among other things, non-discrimination seems to imply that companies recognize and respect a range of religious preferences, including allowing religious clothing, e.g., by allowing Muslim women to wear headscarves. However, many companies do not believe that employees generally should be allowed to wear the kind of clothes they please. In this paper, we discuss the (alleged) asymmetry between the status of religious and secular clothing. We conclude that religious exemptions to dress codes can discriminate wrongfully. To solve this problem, companies should not ban religious clothing. Instead, companies should liberalize their dress codes, so that employees would be allowed to wear secular and religious types of clothing on an equal footing.