Accommodating religious beliefs and practices in the workplace
In addition to prohibiting discrimination by private and public employers on the grounds of race, color, sex, religion and national origin, Title VII states that an employer must provide "reasonable accommodation" of an employee's religious beliefs and practices.Under Title VII, an employer can't refuse to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious observances, unless accommodation would constitute an "undue hardship" for the business.In 2013, there had been a number of charges filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) involving religion in the workplace.As workplaces become more religiously diverse, it may be a good time for your organization to review its practices relative to the issue.Say an applicant tells you she wouldn’t be able to work Friday nights due to her religion.Or an employee begins wearing a headscarf to the office. The increasing religious diversity in the workforce is causing more managers to make legal mistakes.Title VII accommodation cases often concern the extent to which an employer must alter work schedules to accommodate religious holidays or the Sabbath.An employee must first notify the employer of the conflict between his or her religious belief and an employment requirement.
The Court has stated that at a minimum, the Establishment Clause means: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church.Religion is the fastest growing and one of the most confusing areas in employment law. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. Supreme Court case in this area, decided during the Vietnam War, set forth the test be applied when determining whether a religious belief is bona fide for religious exclusion from the military draft: “The test might be stated in these words: A sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualifying for the exemption comes within the statutory definition.” The Court made it clear that these sincere and meaningful beliefs that prompt the registrant’s objection to all wars need not be confined in either source or content to traditional or parochial concepts of religion. 1992), the employee alleged that he was fired for his organization of a KKK Adolf Hitler rally. The First Amendment creates a very large legal exemption for religions from many legal actions, not just employment cases.The EEOC has issued extensive guidelines on the topic. The courts have even found that Atheists have a “creed” which qualifies as “religion” and must be reasonably accommodated. Where does protected religious behavior cross into harassment of other employees, clients and customers? [Up to four year statute of limitations and unlimited damages; plaintiff can sue individuals, as well as organizations.] The U. Supreme Court has interpreted the Establishment Clause to mean that government may not promote or affiliate itself with any religious doctrine or organization, may not discriminate against persons on the basis of their religious beliefs and practices, may not delegate a government power to a religious institution and may not involve itself too deeply in such an institution’s affairs. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, nor may the Federal Government, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. The court ruled that incorporating prayer into required meetings violates employees’ rights. religion.” “The term ‘religion’ includes all aspects of religious observance or practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” [300-day statute of limitations and limited damages; generally only employer liability] discrimination in contracts and other areas of business and public life. It held that the law “does not distinguish between externally and internally derived beliefs,” and also held that “intensely personal” convictions which some might find incomprehensible or incorrect come within the meaning of religious belief in the Act. The exemptions include not just worship facilities but also exemptions, or partial exemptions, for religiously-affiliated organizations.Federal anti-discrimination law—Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—makes it unlawful to discriminate against applicants or employees based on their religion.The law says employers must “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s “sincerely held” religious practices unless doing so would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer.