Prohibiting religious discrimination by employers with 15 or more employees. (Many states also have laws in place which should be followed if applicable.)Prohibiting the discharge, discrimination, or harassment of an employee or applicant for employment because of the individual’s religion (including absence of religious beliefs).Requiring an employer provide reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless it would cause the employer an undue hardship to do so.Prohibiting retaliation against an individual for opposing discriminatory practices, or for filing a charge, testifying, or participating in an investigation, hearing, or other proceeding under Title VII.
Employers are required to reasonably accommodate religious practices unless accommodation would cause an “undue hardship” on the conduct of business. Undue hardship may be claimed by an employer in situations where accommodating an employee’s religious practices would require more than ordinary administrative costs. Factors to be considered in determining whether an accommodation is an undue hardship include the size and nature of the business, the type and cost of the accommodation required, and notice of the requested accommodation.
Penalizing an employee for missing a workday because of such an observance would likely constitute religious discrimination. On the other hand, some courts have ruled that requiring employees to take paid or unpaid leave on days they wish to observe as personal religious holidays meets the test of reasonable accommodation. Many employers grant all employees one or two paid personal days per year for personal business and a religious holiday would certainly meet this purpose.
Each request by an employee or prospective employee for accommodation of religious practices should be documented as to the date and nature of the request and the alternatives considered by the employer in making that accommodation. Where accommodation is denied because of undue hardship, the employer should keep a full record of the nature of that hardship.
Prevention of Religious Discrimination
Of course, a company should avoid religious discrimination and consider the accommodation of employees’ requests for religious obligations throughout the year, not only during the holidays. In order to minimize a company’s risk of religious discrimination under Title VII, an employer should, at a minimum, take these five precautions in its management of the workforce:Post conspicuous notice regarding the employer’s prohibition of religious discrimination.Establish a training program to raise awareness of diversity issues in the workplace.Have a written company policy.Discipline employees consistently, regardless of religion.Take immediate and reasonable steps to stop any discriminatory conduct by other employees.