Accommodating religious beliefs in the workplace

09-Aug-2020 03:19

As the members of the 116th Congress were sworn in earlier this month, one Representative stood in violation of the 1837 House rule banning head coverings on the house floor.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Muslim, is the first Congressional representative to wear a hijab.

This means, for example, that employers may not refuse to hire anyone who does not share their faith, promote only Jews or Catholics, or require background checks only of Muslim employees.

(See Your Rights Against Religious Discrimination for more information.) The law also requires employers to accommodate their employees’ religious beliefs and practices, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship.

Implied in the prohibition against discrimination is a positive duty on the part of the employer to accommodate their employees' needs for reasons associated with recognized discriminatory grounds, which is known more simply as the duty to accommodate.

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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Best Practices for Eradicating Religious Discrimination in the Workplace.Human rights legislation exists in each jurisdiction that protects individuals from discrimination in employment.Specifically, employers are prohibited from discriminating against potential or current employees on certain grounds, including race, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, and disability.Failure to properly accommodate an employee's religious beliefs could not only lead to potential human rights complaints, but also negative media coverage, as was the case with York University.

Employers should consider the following guiding principles when determining how to accommodate their employees' religious beliefs, particularly in light of the obligation to accommodate to the point of undue hardship: A final consideration for employers is that the law does not require accommodation to the complete satisfaction of the requesting employee.Rather, the employer is obligated to find reasonable accommodations for both the employee and the employer in the context of the specific employment relationship.

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