What Employers Should Know About Religious Discrimination
A reasonable accommodation is any adjustment to the employment environment that would allow workers to practice their religion. Some examples include scheduling flexibility, job reassignments, voluntary swaps or substitutions, exceptions to dress code and grooming rules, and transferring laterally within the company. If accommodations are too costly, decrease efficiency, involve safety concerns, or burden or endanger other employees, exceptions to the accommodations may be allowed.
Ban on Harassment
Title VII also takes a stand against religious harassment in the workplace. Minor offenses such as offhand comments, mild teasing, or one-time occurrences are not against the law, but more serious harassment is. For example, if offensive comments about an individual’s religious practices or belief systems were so commonplace and vengeful that they created a hostile work environment, this would be against the law. Also, if an employee is fired or demoted because of his or her religious beliefs, this is a serious enough offense to lead to litigation.
Best Practices for Employers
There are multiple steps employers can take to prevent religious discrimination in the workplace. For example:
- During employment interviews, employers can make sure to ask the same questions of each job applicant.
- In case of disciplinary actions, employers should keep precise written records of all events, actions, and performance-related reports. These reports should be shared with the employee in a timely manner.
- If customers are complaining about employees’ religious garb or preferences, employers should consider educating these customers in a positive manner.
- The risk of disparate treatment can be minimized if the employer establishes written objectives for hiring, firing, and promoting and remains consistent with all employees.
Modifying the Workplace to Allow for Religious Freedom
Employers should work to accommodate freedom of religious expression, as long as it doesn’t cause undue hardship for the company or other employees. For example, workers should be allowed to wear religious garb, and managers should be trained to avoid stereotyping based on atypical dress or grooming practices. Workplace schedules, duties, and procedures should be made with flexibility and creativity whenever possible. Employers should not pressure workers to attend social events when there is a religious conflict or objection. If an employee’s religious beliefs prohibit him or her from paying union dues, alternative arrangements should be made, such as allowing him or her to donate the same amount of money to a charity.
Praying on the Job
Employers should allow prayer, proselytizing, and other worship practices, as long as they don’t adversely impact the company or other employees. If supervisors are concerned about disruptions, employers should work to educate them about freedom of religious expression and the need for sensitivity between believers and nonbelievers. Designating unused spaces within the workplace for prayer sessions could solve any problems.
It is against the law for an employer to retaliate against a person for voicing opposition to employment practices that are discriminatory against religion. Retaliating against workers who have testified or filed a discrimination charge is also unlawful. Employers can minimize retaliation claims by:
- Training managers to be aware of anti-retaliation rules in the Title VII document
- Keeping accurate and timely records regarding any disciplinary actions taken and sharing them with employees
Religious discrimination is against the law. Employers can keep their job sites legal and peaceful when they educate themselves, their management team, and their employees about workers’ religious freedom rights under the law.
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