With Passover and Easter coming up this week, it seems timely to revisit the laws regarding religious discrimination and accommodation.
Fortunately for you (and me), the Employment & Labor Insider just posted a terrific piece on the subject. Among the issues that the post flagsis the common situation of an employer who tries to decide what is and is not a proper religious belief.
In fact, when considering a request for a religious accommodation, the employer should make only two judgments: (1) is the belief "religious" in nature, and (2) does it appear to be sincerely held? The employer should not be assessing whether the religious belief is "valid."
Put another way, it is not necessary to get into theological debates when asked for a religious accommodation. This is the case even if the employee’s belief seems "ridiculous" to the employer
Other issues that may come up are how to verify the need for a religious accommodation, "preaching" to co-workers or subordinates, and banning all talk of religion in the workplace.
Back in 2008, I highlighted a then-new publication by the EEOC about religious discrimination in the workplace. It’s still worth a read today because of its "best practices" section. Among the suggestions:
Among the suggestions:
- Employers should have a well-publicized and consistently applied anti-harassment policy that: (1) covers religious harassment; (2) clearly explains what is prohibited; (3) describes procedures for bringing harassment to management’s attention; and, (4) contains an assurance that complainants will be protected against retaliation. The procedures should include a complaint mechanism that includes multiple avenues for complaint; prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations; and prompt and appropriate corrective action.
- Employers should allow religious expression among employees to the same extent that they allow other types of personal expression that are not harassing or disruptive.
- Once an employer is on notice that an employee objects to religious conduct that is directed at him or her, the employer should take steps to end the conduct because even conduct that the employer does not regard as abusive can become sufficiently severe or pervasive to affect the conditions of employment if allowed to persist in the face of the employee’s objection.
For all those who celebrate, have a very Happy Easter and a Happy Passover (Chag Sameach).