(Adapted from “How to Deal with Work-Faith Conflicts?” – hr.blr.com)
Employers seem to be increasingly challenged by the duty to accommodate work-faith conflicts, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has seen a drastic increase in religious bias lawsuits filed over the last 10 years. Perhaps employers are simply not well-informed on how to handle religious-based issues at work. As such, here are some tips to help understand how employers should handle conflicts at work involving religion.
Much like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are expected to accommodate an employee with a religious conflict. If an employee informs his boss that his religious beliefs do not allow him to work on Sundays, the employer must make its best effort to accommodate the employee. If, however, there is an undue hardship to the employer by accommodating an employee’s religious preference, then the courts will not force employers to accommodate.
Example: For a number of years, Federal Express has not allowed employees to take any days off for the entire month of December because of the heavy workload. The EEOC sued on behalf of an employee that had religious bans for working Sundays. Federal Express successfully demonstrated an undue hardship based on the heavy workload and the fact that the policy was consistent with how it treated each employee in this regard, as every employee was required to work 7 days a week in December. The EEOC lost this case in court.
Most employers should be able to offer alternative work schedules when running operations 7 days a week, or perhaps provide an opportunity for employees to attend religious meetings or worship sessions that are only held on Sundays. For more accommodation ideas, please contact one of our ESG Human Resources Consultants at 888-810-8187.
Searching for Candidates
If the thought has crossed your mind to perhaps specify the requirement to work on Sundays as a part of the job description, do not act upon that thought. This would prevent otherwise- qualified candidates from applying for the job, just as would specifying gender, race, age, or any other discrimination-related criteria – and may open the door for a religious discrimination case. If a candidate states in an interview that she is unable to work on Sundays because of her faith, you must do your best to accommodate and cannot refuse to hire her if she is otherwise qualified for the job.
Tip to employees: Wait to discuss your religious accommodation needs with your prospective employer after having a preliminary job offer, as the employer can cautiously outline other business-related criteria for having hired another candidate, should they be made aware of your accommodation needs before making the job offer.
For more information about employers’ duties and expectations when dealing with work-faith conflicts, please contact one of ESG’s Human Resources Consultants at 888-810-8187.
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