Religious Accommodation is Based on Reasonability
Employers may not treat employees or applicants less - or more - favorably because of their religious beliefs or practices. For example, an employer may not refuse to hire individuals of a certain religion, may not impose stricter promotion requirements for persons of a certain religion, and may not impose more or different work requirements on an employee because of that employee's religious beliefs or practices. Employees cannot be forced to participate - or not participate - in a religious activity as a condition of employment.
What are the employer's responsibilities?
Employers must reasonably accommodate employees' sincerely held religious beliefs or practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his or her religion. Examples of religious accommodation include:
- Flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps
- Job reassignments
- Lateral transfers
- Modifying workplace practices, policies and/or procedures
When might an employer not be required to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs and practices?
This would apply if doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer's legitimate business interests. An employer can show undue hardship if accommodating an employee's religious practices requires more than ordinary administrative costs, diminishes efficiency in other jobs, infringes on other employees' job rights or benefits, impairs workplace safety, causes co-workers to carry the accommodated employee's share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work, or if the proposed accommodation conflicts with another law or regulation.
An employer may not place more restrictions on religious expression than on other forms of expression that have a comparable effect on workplace efficiency.
Employers must take steps to prevent religious harassment of their employees.
Example: I am a computer specialist. As a devout Muslim, I am required to attend prayer services at my mosque for a short period on Friday afternoons. Obviously, this conflicts with my work hours.
What can I do?
You can request a reasonable accommodation in order to engage in a religious practice. Your employer is required to provide you with such an accommodation unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer's business. Whether the employer can accommodate your religious practices will depend upon the nature of the work and the workplace. Usually, the employer can allow you to use lunch or other break times for religious prayer. If you require additional time for prayer, your employer can require you to make up the time.
How do I request a religious accommodation?
- Contact EOO to make a request.
- EOO staff members are permitted to verify the need for the request from the religious leader of the relevant faith or practice. It is recommended that supervisors not engage in this process and that they refer requests for accommodation to EOO.
- Upon verification of the legitimacy of the request, EOO will contact the supervisor or department chair to discuss the request and suggest ways in which the accommodation may be accomplished.
Can I wear religious apparel to work?
Yes. Religious accommodation may also include wearing religious apparel or other symbols of faith. You cannot be denied this right based on whether colleagues are offended by the apparel or the item.
Are there any restrictions to wearing religious apparel?
Yes. Some restrictions may be applicable if wearing a piece of jewelry would pose a risk to personal safety when operating equipment. This restriction then would apply to all jewelry, religious and otherwise.
What if I am told that granting my accommodation is not feasible?
Even though the standard of undue hardship is not as high as for accommodations for persons with disabilities, the employer is still expected to be reasonable in responding to requests. The lowered standard does not mean that employers may simply make arbitrary decisions when approving or disapproving requests. In all cases, the approval/disapproval must be consistent. Employers cannot approve requests from members of certain faiths while always denying the requests from members of other faiths.