Can I refuse entry and/or service at my retail business (food service, grocery, book store, etc.) to individuals wearing face coverings? i'm specifically interested in religious coverings such as hijab/niqab/burka. If individuals ignore this policy, would it be trespass and would that mean I could call the cops to have said individuals removed?

  • 2
    What jurisdiction? Please add an appropriate tag. Aug 12, 2016 at 0:57
  • 5
    If you are especially interested in religious coverings, then this would very much look like discrimination on religious grounds and get you into trouble.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 12, 2016 at 12:02
  • 1
    Some banks in the US prohibit head coverings, but this is (or is stated to be) because hats and hoods which obscure the face make things easier for robbers, It is not specifically aimed at religious head coverings. Dec 1, 2018 at 21:50
  • 1
    This question might have a very different answer now from when it was asked, in light of the global pandemic. Oct 1, 2020 at 18:41
  • My bank in British Columbia posted a sign at the entrance in the winter reminding patrons that they were required to remove ski masks and similar face coverings. Note though that a respiratory mask will not stop good facial recognition software, but acski mask usually will.
    – arp
    Apr 5 at 0:52

2 Answers 2


You do not give a jurisdiction so I will assume Australia.

Discrimination is legal unless it is for a prohibited reason

One of the prohibited reasons is if it is on the basis of a person's religious beliefs.

So, you are completely within your rights to an individual wearing a face covering provided that the wearing of such a covering is not part of that person's religious belief.

So, you can say no to motorcycle helmets, baseball caps and balaclavas - you cannot say no to a hajib if it is worn as a religious observance of either Islam or Christianity, a habit if worn by a Christian nun or a kippah worn by an orthodox Jew. Providing your policy contains such exceptions you are good to go.


  • How can one determine, at the moment of granting or refusing entry, if the face covering is a religious observance or a clever disguise?
    – DJohnM
    Aug 13, 2016 at 3:45
  • @DJohnM it would be wise to assume that it is a religious observance
    – Dale M
    Aug 13, 2016 at 6:22

You can refuse entry to or eject anyone. The police might point out that you are likely to get sued, and there might even be a local ordinance that would prohibit them from enforcing a property-owner's trespass complaint if it appeared discriminatory. You would be in violation of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, via 42 USC 2000a, so there would be consequences.

All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin

A complaint could be lodged with the Department of Justice, or the party could file suit directly. There are also state regulations against this (Washington: RCW 49.60.030), and in Seattle and some other places, city ordinances.

Even if you spin the restriction as simply about face covering, under a "disparate impact" analysis, this would almost certainly be found to be religious discrimination since it would predominantly affect Muslims.

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