Image Is Everything: Corporate Branding and Religious Accommodation in the Workplace

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There is growing tension in the law between an employee’s right to religious expression in the workplace and an employer’s countervailing right to cultivate its corporate image. The existing case law provides little meaningful guidance to employers and employees faced with this conflict. Not only do outcomes vary from court to court, but the analysis and reasoning underlying these decisions are often inconsistent, and sometimes contradictory. I argue that because a company’s image is one of its most valuable assets, courts should more closely scrutinize religious accommodation claims that interfere with a company’s ability to control its image. Such enhanced scrutiny does not require a break from Supreme Court precedent; rather, it requires stricter adherence thereto. I offer three recommendations for how courts can recalibrate their analyses of religious accommodation cases involving corporate image concerns. These recommendations should help produce a more balanced case law that better harmonizes with Supreme Court precedent, while providing employers and employees greater clarity in navigating this sensitive and complex issue.

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