Here’s a hypothetical: A observant Jewish worker who is a recent leg amputee comes to you seeking an “accommodation”. She works on the candy wrapping line that requires constant supervision and is staffed by only one or two people typically. She seeks to leave her shift 4 hours early on Fridays to observe the Jewish sabbath. She also seeks to take frequent breaks to rest for her disability.
Let’s call this employee, “Lucy” and use this video as an “example” of the candy-wrapping line.
In other words, suppose “Lucy” wants an “accommodation” for both her religion and her disability. What do you do as an employer?
As an employer, the obligations to provide an accommodation for a disability are not the same as for a religion because, while each may use the language of “accommodation”, the standards are quite different.
For a disability under the ADA, generally, employers must provide a “reasonable accommodation” so long as it doesn’t cause an “undue hardship”. Frequent rest period may be reasonable under the circumstances, because the other person on the candy wrapping line can easily cover for the disabled employee. (Ignore the “video” above, which still shows some difficulty even with two people.) The cost of doing so may be something more than minimal, but it is not so difficult that the employer can’t do it. The employer doesn’t need to hire anyone for the breaks.
For a religious belief accommodation under Title VII, the standard is slightly different. The law requires an employer or other covered entity 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.
In the hypothetical above, the employer may say that they can’t leave a candy wrapping line shift unstaffed for four hours and would need to hire someone for that shift. In that instance, the employer may argue that providing the accommodation could cause more than a minimal burden.
Two types of accommodations; two different results.
Of course, the usual warnings apply to this: Each case has different facts and what may work for one employer may not be workable for another. Also, there may be state laws that apply different standards as well. Thus, the hypothetical above is for illustration purposes only.
But for employers who are dealing with “accommodations”, this example should suffice. Understand that there are different standards for religious belief and disability accommodations and apply them appropriately.
Otherwise, “you got some ‘splainin’ to do!”