May an employer prohibit an employee from displaying religious imagery at his or her desk or workstation?

Author: Jill Gormley, Strong and Clear Communications

Yes. However, the answer depends on whether the employer has an established policy limiting personal decorations at workstations. If the employer permits employees to decorate workspaces, barring an employee from displaying religious imagery may give rise to a religious discrimination claim.

Title VII requires that an employer accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious belief if doing so would not place an undue hardship on the employer. In determining whether permitting an employee to display religious imagery at his or her desk or workstation would pose an undue hardship, an employer may take into account the effect such expression has on co-workers, customers, clients or business operations.

However, an employer may establish policies placing limitations on employees decorating their workstations, and that policy may extend to banning religious symbols. The critical point is to formulate a policy, be sure employees are aware of the policy and enforce the policy in a uniform manner.