Legal Briefing: Knives as Religious Symbols


Jan. 7, 2014

Kawaljeet Tagore, an IRS agent, started to wear a kirpan after being baptized into the Sikh religion. Sikhs are required to carry the swordlike object. Tagore’s request for a security waiver to continue to access the federal office where she worked was denied because the blade on her kirpan exceeded the law’s 2.5-inch limit, and did not fall within any exemptions.

When the IRS and Tagore could not agree on a religious accommodation that would allow her to access the building wearing the knife, Tagore appeared for work wearing the kirpan, was denied access and was terminated from her job. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas dismissed Tagore’s lawsuit against the U.S. and several federal agencies under Title VII and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit held that the district court failed to conduct an individualized assessment required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and instead concluded the government had a compelling interest in enforcing the security law. The appellate court affirmed dismissal of the Title VII claim since the IRS doesn’t control federal building security. Tagore v. United States (5th Cir.) No. 12-20214 (Nov. 13, 2013).

Impact: Employers are advised that they may be required to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs, and that their efforts to do so should be carefully reviewed.

James E. Hall, Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners in the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. To comment, email FollowWorkforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

What’s New at

blog workforce

Come see what we’re building in the world of predictive employee scheduling, superior labor insights and next-gen employee apps. We’re on a mission to automate workforce management for hourly employees and bring productivity, optimization and engagement to the frontline.

Book a call
See the software

Related Articles

workforce blog


Minimum Wage by State in 2023 – All You Need to Know

Summary Twenty-three states and D.C. raised their minimum wage rates in 2023, effective January 1.  Thr...

federal law, minimum wage, pay rates, state law, wage law compliance

workforce blog


New Labor Laws Taking Effect in 2023

The new year is fast approaching, and with its arrival comes a host of new labor laws that will impact ...

labor laws, minimum wage, wage and hour law

workforce blog


Wage and Hour Laws in 2022: What Employers Need to Know

Whether a mom-and-pop shop with a handful of employees or a large corporation staffing thousands, compl...

compliance, wage and hour law