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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