Religious Accommodation

Editor's Note: Tips for providing reasonable accommodations based on religion.

Beth P. ZollerOverview: Under Title VII, as well as various state and local laws, employers are required to engage in the interactive process and reasonably accommodate an individual's religious practices or beliefs unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the employer. Reasonable accommodations include flexible scheduling, swapping shifts and allowing accommodations in the dress code policy so that an employee may wear religious clothing such as a head covering.

When engaging in the interactive process with an employee or applicant seeking a religious accommodation, it is permissible for the employer to seek additional information regarding the religious practice or requirement. In order to obtain a religious accommodation, an individual must demonstrate that the practice is religious in nature and his or her beliefs are sincerely held.

Trends: Religious accommodation is a hot topic. In 2014, the EEOC issued updated guidance for employers regarding providing employees with religious accommodations when it comes to dress codes, grooming and appearance. The guidance covers clothing as well as hairstyles and facial hair. Therefore, it is a best practice for employers to carefully consider all relevant and reasonable accommodations whether it be an accommodation to a dress code policy, a schedule change or other accommodation. There has also been a focus on religious accommodation at the state level. For example, California recently adopted a law which explicitly requires employers to make accommodations to employees based on religion, unless doing so would cause the employer undue hardship which is defined as a significant difficulty or expense (a higher burden than the federal standard under Title VII). Employers should be stay current with the requirements in their state and aim to provide religious accommodations if feasible. Further, employers should recognize that recent federal cases suggest that an employer may be able to avoid liability for religious discrimination by engaging in the interactive process with employees and providing reasonable accommodations based on religion.

Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor

Latest items in Religious Accommodation

  • EEOC Issues Religious Discrimination Prevention Resource

    Date:
    July 26, 2016
    Type:
    News

    The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the release of a one-page fact sheet designed to communicate religious discrimination protections to younger workers. In addition, the EEOC will implement changes in the collection of demographic data from individuals who file charges with the agency.

  • California Amends Discrimination and Harassment Regulations: Employment Law Manual, Quick Reference Chart Updated

    Date:
    February 25, 2016
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    California has amended its Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) discrimination and harassment regulations, effective April 1, 2016.

  • Religious Issues in the Workplace - Supervisor Briefing

    Type:
    Supervisor Training

    This briefing for supervisors examines the law and best practices for supervisors when it comes to managing religious issues in the workplace such as avoiding religious discrimination, harassment and retaliation, reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs and practices and types of religious accommodations.

  • Religious Accommodation Handbook Statement

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Employers covered by Title VII and seeking to advise employees of their right to seek accommodations based on religion should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Ramadan and the Workplace

    Date:
    June 22, 2015
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

  • Day of Rest for Retail Employees Handbook Statement: North Dakota

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    North Dakota retail establishments seeking to inform employees, including supervisors, about day of rest and religious accommodation requirements should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Mandatory Time Off / Day of Rest Handbook Statement: Georgia

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Georgia employers seeking to show their compliance with Georgia's Common Day of Rest Act (CDRA) should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Religious Accommodation Evaluation Form

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    Employers should use this form upon receiving a request from an employee for a religious accommodation. The form will help the employer in the interactive process and discussions with the employee regarding reasonable accommodations.

  • Religious Accommodation Request and Action Form

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    This form is for use by employees who seek to obtain a workplace accommodation based on religion. If an employee's or applicant's religious beliefs conflict with a job requirement, the individual may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation so long as the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

  • Religious Accommodation Response Form

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    Employers should utilize this form to notify employees who have requested a religious accommodation of the outcome of the employee's request. This form provides the employer with an opportunity to detail the accommodation being provided or the reasons for denying the requested accommodation.

About This Topic

HR guidance on types of reasonable accommodations based on religion and how to engage in the interactive process when an employee or applicant requests an accommodation based on religion.