diversity issues in the workplace last week.
The revision was prompted by the sharp rise in the number of claims
filed charging religious discrimination.
Almost 2,900 claims were filed in 2007 up 13% from 2006 and more than
double the number in 1992. The EEOC Compliance Manual section on Religious
Discrimination includes detailed rules, recommendations and examples. One of the trickiest areas is handling
requests for accommodation of religious beliefs in the workplace.
When employers are asked to accommodate religious beliefs
the EEOC recommends the following:
- Tell employees that they will
make reasonable efforts to accommodate the employees’ religious practices.
- Train managers and
supervisors on how to recognize religious accommodation requests from
- Develop procedures for
processing religious accommodation requests.
- Individually assess each
request and avoid assumptions or stereotypes about a religious belief or
practice or what type of accommodation is appropriate.
- Employers are not required to
provide an employee’s preferred accommodation if there is more than one
effective alternative to choose from. An employer should, however,
consider the employee’s proposed method of accommodation, and if it is
denied, explain to the employee why it’s not being granted.
- Should be trained to consider
alternative available accommodations if the particular accommodation requested
would pose an undue hardship.
Here is an example from the EEOC Manual of a specific request can be denied;
Prakash, who works for CutX, a surgical
instrument manufacturer, does not shave or trim his facial hair because of his
Sikh religious observance. When he seeks
a promotion to manage the division responsible for sterilizing the instruments,
his employer tells him that, to work in that division, he must shave or trim
his beard otherwise his beard may contaminate the sterile field. When Prakash explains that he cannot trim his
beard for religious reasons, the employer offers to allow Prakash to wear two
face masks instead of trimming his beard. Prakash thinks that wearing two masks
is unreasonable and files a Title VII charge. CutX will prevail because it
offered a reasonable accommodation that would eliminate Prakash’s religious
conflict with the hygiene rule.
In another situation the EEOC recommends accommodation;
Nasreen, a Muslim ticket agent for a commercial airline,
wears a head scarf, or hijab, to work at the airport ticket counter.
her manager objected, telling Nasreen that the customers might think she was
sympathetic to terrorist hijackers. Nasreen explains to her manager that
wearing the hijab is her religious practice and continues to wear it. She
is terminated for wearing it over her manager’s objection. Customer fears
or prejudices do not amount to undue hardship, and the refusal to accommodate
her and the termination, therefore, violate Title VII. In addition,
denying Nasreen the position due to perceptions of customer preferences about
religious attire would be disparate treatment based on religion in violation of
Title VII, because it would be the same as refusing to hire Nasreen because she
is a Muslim.
beliefs in the workplace?