During this election year we’ve seen some pretty disgraceful displays of religious and national origin treatment of workers in the United States. Statements made that we should not hire individuals who practice a certain religious belief are as ignorant as those making them. All employees, no matter what religion they follow, are entitled to fair and equal treatment under the workplace laws. One of the founding principles this country was established under was the freedom to express one’s own religious beliefs without wrongful interference, condemnation or ridicule. This extends to the employment arena as well. Religious discrimination is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, as well as the Illinois Human Rights Act.
Recently, in a case in Illinois, the court awarded 2 Muslim truck drivers over $240,000 in damages because they were fired for refusing to transport alcohol despite their religious beliefs. Other examples of religious intolerance include an employee who claimed he saw “the Mark of the Beast” in a biometric scanner and was thereafter forced to retire; Hebrew Pentecostal employees who were terminated because they refused to work on Saturdays; an employer who revoked a job offer because the employee’s religious beliefs precluded work on Saturdays; and the case of the employees who wore beards as part of their religious observance but were not promoted until they shaved.
The EEOC has brought a number of religious discrimination cases against employers who discriminate based on religious beliefs. The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer’s business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion.
Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.
Unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer’s operation of its business, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. This applies not only to schedule changes or leave for religious observances, but also to such things as dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons. These might include, for example, wearing particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf), or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard). It also includes an employee’s observance of a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (such as pants or miniskirts).
When an employee or applicant needs a dress or grooming accommodation for religious reasons, he should notify the employer that he needs such an accommodation for religious reasons. If the employer reasonably needs more information, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request. If it would not pose an undue hardship, the employer must grant the accommodation.
An employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.
With over 30 years’ experience in advising employees on workplace issues, such as transgender law from our previous post, let Boznos Law work with you to ensure you are ready to meet the challenges posed by the ever evolving labor and employment landscape. Call Bill Boznos today at (630) 375-1958 or contact us through our website at www.boznoslawoffice.com