Religious accommodation in the workplace
With the holiday season around the corner, here are some tips to ensure that your organization is in compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in regards to religious accommodation.
When an employee asks to make an exception to their work schedule due to a religious holiday or religious practice, don’t automatically respond with “no”. The law requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer’s business. The biggest challenge for employers is defining religion and reasonable accommodation.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines religion to include “all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief.” Religion includes not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others.
Reasonable accommodations for religious holidays and practices may include allowing flexible arrival and departure times, floating or optional holidays, flexible work breaks, use of lunch time in exchange for early departure [when state law permits], staggered work hours, and other means to enable an employee to make up time lost due to the observance of religious practices.
The only reason an employer does not have to accommodate for a religious holiday or practice is if it causes an undue hardship, which may have costly effects, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.
If you are looking for more information on religious accommodation or religious discrimination, http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/religion.cfm provides a full rundown on laws and regulations regarding discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including the information provided here.