Jonathan Lallo attends the Magna congregation of Jehovah`s Witnesses and works in the Salt Lake City area health care system. His employer allows him to work a reduced schedule of 32 hours a week, he says, while receiving benefits like health insurance, paid vacation and unpaid time off. It is illegal to harass someone because of their religion. Improper overtime payments to employees who replace shifts are not considered undue hardship. Customer preferences or employee dissatisfaction do not justify refusing religious accommodations. Luke Goodrich, an attorney at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and an associate professor at the University of Utah School of Law, is working on a case on the subject that is being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. Title VII defines “religion” very broadly. It includes traditional and organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. It also includes religious beliefs that are new or unusual, that are not part of a formal church or sect, or that are held by only a small number of people.
If you have a bona fide religious belief or practice that conflicts with the performance of your professional duties, you are entitled to “reasonable accommodation.” Reasonable accommodation is a solution that eliminates the conflict between your religious beliefs or practices and your professional responsibilities. For example, if your religion requires you not to work on Sundays, housing may involve a change in your schedule so that you can work on Saturdays instead of Sundays. Examples of common religious adjustments include flexible hours, voluntary shift changes or exchanges, job reminders, and changes in workplace policies or practices. A company that restricts religious expression can be accused of ignoring faith, Volokh says. But if all the language allows, some employees might accuse him of promoting a hostile work environment. It should mean embodying your belief, making it “an integral part of who you are, not like a costume you put on,” Aeschbacher says. “It means becoming a particularly good and trustworthy employee where your faith blesses your work. What about religion-based jobs that require a certain standard of behavior, based on the company`s principles of faith? The harasser may be the victim`s supervisor, a supervisor in another field, a colleague, or someone who is not an employee of the department, such as a contractor. Later, he asked for a guarantee that he would never have to work on Saturdays, which Walgreens refused. He was fired.
This means that employers should be prepared to allow Christians to take Sunday off if Sabbath observance is a “sincere faith,” or to grant the same privilege to Seventh-day Adventists on Saturday. Religious clothing such as crosses for Catholics, hijabs (headscarves) for Muslim women, caps for Jewish men or turbans for Sikh men should be suitable in most work environments. These may be insensitive measures in the workplace, but are they illegal? If a schedule change would cause undue hardship, the employer must allow employees to voluntarily replace or exchange shifts to reflect the employee`s religious beliefs or practices. If an employee cannot be accommodated in their current position, a transfer to a vacant position may be possible. In Patterson v. Walgreens, Darrell Patterson, a Seventh-day Adventist, made it clear that he could not work on Saturday, the Adventist Sabbath. His supervisor had agreed to let others take over all the shifts that took place that day. It worked smoothly for a long time, Goodrich says, until Walgreens executives scheduled an emergency workout on a weekend on a Saturday and Patterson, after failing to find a replacement to take over in his absence, decided not to participate. You can “tell your colleagues about your faith, hang a religious photo, or keep personal belongings at work. Have personal devotions (like reading your scriptures in the break room) or even form a volunteer prayer group,” the website says, “unless the company has work-related policies that apply equally to everyone (such as keeping desks away from personal items when customers can see them).” “I appreciate the great efforts of my employer.
to accommodate not only the work of my wife and me, but also the 18 other Jehovah`s Witnesses who work there,” he wrote in an email. “While I am aware that religious discrimination occurs in different parts of the world, I am grateful to have an employer here in the Salt Lake City area that respects the religious freedom of its employees.” The third form of discrimination occurs when the employer maintains (or allows) a hostile environment for employees of certain beliefs. Typically, this happens when employees harass an employee based on their beliefs, to the point where an abusive or intimidating work environment is created. The harassment must be severe or widespread to constitute discrimination under a hostile workplace theory. Therefore, a mere disagreement on religious principles would probably not constitute unlawful harassment. However, serious insults or threats, or ongoing words and actions intended to harass or intimidate an employee because of religion, may exceed the legal course of action. The employer is guilty if he knew or should have known of the illegal harassment. Religious discrimination can also mean treating someone differently because that person is married (or affiliated with) someone of a particular religion. An employer is not required to consider an employee`s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship.
Accommodation can cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, reduces workplace efficiency, violates the rights of other workers, or requires other employees to do more than their potentially dangerous or stressful work. Federal and state laws require that workers not be treated unfairly because of their religion. If you feel like you are experiencing religious discrimination in the workplace, a professional can help you determine your rights and the best way forward. Contact a local employment lawyer today to discuss how they can help. If at any time you believe you have been discriminated against and/or denied accommodation on the basis of religion, please contact an Equal Employment Opportunity Consultant (or the Civil Rights Center) within forty-five (45) days of the alleged discriminatory event to preserve your right to file an equal employment opportunity complaint. Under the First Amendment, Americans enjoy two freedoms with respect to religion: the right to be free from a government-imposed religion and the right to practice any religion. Although private employers are not bound by the restrictions imposed by the Constitution on the government, they are subject to federal and state laws that prohibit religious discrimination in employment. Given the number of employees, the diversity of religious beliefs in this country and the freedom to express our opinions, the issue of religious discrimination continues to pose difficult questions for employers and the courts.