DEAR HARRY: I think I might be in trouble. A couple of years ago, I hired a young lady to be a waitress. She was quite good in handling customers and in dealing with co-workers. About a month ago, she showed up to work wearing a kind of scarf and headdress characteristic of Muslim women. She told me that she had been seriously dating a man who insisted on it before he would consider marrying her. On her first night after that, I had a distressing series of incidents. Her first customers refused to have her serve them as did her next two. Her remaining customers appeared rather reluctant but said nothing. It was even worse on her second night, with two customers saying they would not be back as long as she was there. I told her that she had to leave or I'd lose enough customers to put me out of business. We parted ways with no nastiness. One of my patrons, a lawyer, then told me that I could be in trouble for violating some rule against religious prejudice. My patrons caused the problem. Am I responsible?
WHAT HARRY SAYS: Guidelines issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission forbid firing an employee just because customers react unfavorably to religious dress or belief. There is an exception that may help you. The guideline does not apply when the employee creates undue hardship for the employer. At this point, I would do nothing except perhaps to educate your bigoted customers.