When Can Clerks Refuse To Serve, Citing Religion?

Posted on May 5, 2007


By Jen Haberkorn
Published March 29, 2007

Can a cashier or clerk wish a customer “Merry Christmas”? Must a pharmacist dispense birth control devices if his faith forbids it? Can a Muslim clerk refuse to touch a whisky or beer bottle, or a pork chop?

Disputes between retailers and employees over religious beliefs in the United States can be traced back to the Puritans, who established laws that retail stores must not open on Sundays. Hundreds of years later, retailers are still dealing with how to address an employee’s religious practices.

Religious discrimination complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have been rising over the past 10 years. Last year, the EEOC received 2,541 complaints, up 48 percent from 1,709 in 1997. The commission has found that about 60 percent of the cases have “no reasonable cause” and about 4 percent to 10 percent do have a reasonable cause.

In Minnesota, Target has been the subject of scrutiny since a Minneapolis Star Tribune reported earlier this month that some Muslim supermarket cashiers ask non-Muslim co-workers or customers to scan pork products for them. They’re following a strict interpretation of the Koran, which forbids touching pork products. [more]

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Other articles to read:
1. Religious discrimination is prohibited under U.S. Law

2. Workplace rights of Muslims under EEOC in the U.S.