Friday, November 15, 2013

5th Circuit Remands Sikh's RFRA Challenge To Ban On Kirpan In Federal Building

In Tagore v. United States, (5th Cir., Nov. 13, 2013), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a Title VII religious discrimination claim by a Sikh employee of the Internal Revenue Service who lost her job after she insisted on wearing her kirpan into her federal office building. Federal law (18 USC Sec. 930) prohibits weapons with blades over 2.5 inches long in federal building. The court said that: "An employer need not accommodate an employee’s religious practice by violating other laws."

However the court remanded for reconsideration of plaintiff's RFRA claim in light of a Policy Directive issued by the Federal Protective Service after the case concluded in the district court. (See prior posting.) That Directive permits granting of exemptions in federal buildings for Sikh articles of faith, and thus possibly undercuts the government's argument regarding the need for uniform application of the weapons ban.  The appeals court also held that, contrary to the district court's conclusion, plaintiff had created a genuine issue of material fact as to her sincere religious belief in wearing a 3-inch bladed kirpan.  [Thanks to Blog From the Capital for the lead.]

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