Accommodating Religion in the Workplace « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles

Accommodating Religion in the Workplace

Avoid the Employment Discrimination Gallows

As religious diversity in the American workplace increases, so does the importance of management’s understanding how to address conflicts that arise.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), responsible for enforcing the federal law prohibiting discrimination in commerce has recently published a guide to help employers with the task (“Questions and Answers: Religious Discrimination in the Workplace,” January 31, 2011).

That federal law (Civil Rights Act of 1964, nicknamed “Title VII”) prohibits:

  • Treating applicants or employees differently based on their religious beliefs or practices – or lack thereof – in any aspect of employment, including recruitment, hiring, assignments, discipline, promotion, and benefits (called “disparate treatment”);
  • Subjecting employees to hostility, insults, or other harassment because of their religious beliefs or practices – or lack thereof – or because of the religious practices or beliefs of people with whom they associate (e.g., relatives, friends, etc.);
  • Failing to seek and work out a requested reasonable accommodation of an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practices if an accommodation will not impose more than a minimal cost or burden on business operations or finance;  and
  • Retaliating against an applicant or employee because he or she has engaged in protected activity, including the filing or voicing of a complaint over perceived religious discrimination or harassment.

The EEOC article also explains how that agency defines “religion,” specifies exceptions to Title VII’s religious provisions, and illustrates what is meant by “religious harassment” as well as some common ways to accommodate religious beliefs in the workplace.

We have also published a recent article on the subject, “Avoiding Religious Discrimination in the Workplace,” Bowles Law Report, Vol. 9, Issue 4.

If you have questions in the area, please let us know.