Overview: 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. 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 can avoid liability for religious discrimination by engaging in the interactive process with employees and providing reasonable accommodations based on religion. 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.
Beth P. Zoller, J.D., Legal Editor
Recent case law developments highlight the importance of preventing discrimination against workers who are Muslim or of Middle Eastern background.
XpertHR's Transportation Resource Center for HR: Discrimination and Harassment helps transportation industry employers handle their most vexing employment issues by bringing relevant resources together in one place for easy access.
In the midst of the flu pandemic, many health care employers are requiring employees to receive flu vaccinations. However, a number of workers have protested, claiming that they are entitled to an accommodation based on disability, religion or pregnancy. What are an employer's obligations to accommodate workers and what groups of workers are they required to accommodate? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided some useful guidance regarding these issues.
On January 28, 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released fiscal year 2012 statistics on employment discrimination charges filed with the agency. Retaliation (37,836) was the most frequently filed claim, followed by race discrimination (33,512) and sex discrimination (30,356), which includes sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. Retaliation charges remain a top concern for employers and have since 2010, accounting for 38.1% of all charges in 2012.
While it is generally lawful for an employer to develop and implement dress codes and uniform policies, the employer must be mindful of employees' right to practice their religion and wear clothing that comports with their religious beliefs and practices, or else it may face a religious discrimination claim. In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Fries Restaurant Management, LLC d/b/a Burger King, Fries Restaurant Management (Fries) agreed to pay $25,000 to a teen employee who was asked to leave work because she wore a skirt instead of the required uniform of black pants.
In the midst of the flu pandemic sweeping the nation, a federal court in Ohio has provided some food for thought to employers that require their employees to get a flu shot. In Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 2012 U.S. Dist. Lexis 182139 (S.D. Ohio, 2012), an employee who was terminated for refusing to get a flu shot because the vaccine contained chicken egg product, which violated her religious and philosophical beliefs as a vegan, may proceed with her religious discrimination claim.
Recent federal cases demonstrate the importance of engaging in the interactive process when an employee requests a religious accommodation. Title VII and similar state and local laws not only prohibit religious discrimination in the workplace, but also require that employers make reasonable accommodations for an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs and practices if doing so would not create an undue hardship.
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.
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 accommodations so long as the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.
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.
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.
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