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Is your workplace policy on religious accommodations in compliance with the law?

Workplace discrimination is an important area for employer to carefully address, both by establishing sound policies to remain in compliance with state and federal law and to address legal liabilities should they arise. The types of a discrimination issues an employer has to address can vary depending on the demographics of the work force.

One of the issues an increasing number of employers hare having to address is prayer breaks for Muslim-American workers. Because practicing Muslims are required to pray five times per day, they often have to request workplace accommodations to fulfill their religious obligations. 

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from denying employees reasonable accommodation requests based upon sincerely held religious beliefs or practices. The key, though, is that the requested accommodation may not impose more than a “de minimus” cost or burden on the employer. Another way of putting this is that employers are not required to accommodate a request that would result in an undue hardship for the business.

The undue hardship standard has been applied differently in different courts, and it is important for employers to work with experienced legal counsel to ensure they understand the legal requirements and implement a sound workplace policy based on these requirements.

To prove an undue hardship, employers must be able to show that they attempted in good faith to resolve the conflict between religious beliefs/practices and the requirements of the job. When an accommodation cannot be granted, the employer must be able to show actual monetary or administrative expenses that would result from granting the accommodation.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this issue, and the role experienced legal counsel can play in assisting employers in this area.

Sources:

Bna.com, “Disputes Over Prayer Breaks Reflect Changing Workforce,” Madison Alder, August 14, 2017.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Questions and Answers: Religious Discrimination in the Workplace, January 31, 2011.

The Municipality, November 2013, Volume 108, Number II. Accessed online at: http://www.lwm-info.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/84

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Edwards Law Group LLC
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Madison, WI 53703

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Phone: 608-390-3394