Religious Discrimination and Accommodation in the Workplace

By Kathleen Pohlid Founder & Managing Member, Pohlid, PLLC | June 02, 2013

A woman wearing a hijab applies for position at your hotel’s front desk, but you feel concerned this may make guests uncomfortable – can you offer her a position in the back office instead?

If employees, who are not members of any church, have deeply held moral views that prohibit them from ingesting meat or eggs, can you require them to take a flu-shot derived from eggs?

Weekends and holidays are busy times at your establishment and you need a full compliment of employees on staff – can you deny a religious accommodation to change an employee’s schedule to attend church if this may lead the way for other employees to do the same?

These are a few of the questions that employers are facing as the workplace becomes increasingly diverse. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their religious beliefs.

The failure to accommodate an employee’s religious practices may constitute discrimination. Unless it poses an undue hardship, employers are required under Title VII to make reasonable accommodations to allow their employees to practice their religion. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the religious anti-discrimination provisions under Title VII.

What is a “religion”?

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.