Executive Summary: With Spring around the corner, many employers will begin to receive varying requests for religious accommodations related to the upcoming religious holidays. These requests often conflict with the employer’s work hours/days or employment duties. Employers who outright refuse an employee’s request for accommodation to celebrate these religious holidays may put the company at risk of a claim for religious discrimination. Federal and state laws do not require that an employee be given paid time off for a religious holiday. However, federal law does require an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation for the religious beliefs of an employee, if the accommodation does not create an undue burden for the employer. Courts look at a number of factors in determining whether the requested accommodation is reasonable. Each request for religious accommodation should be reviewed individually to determine if an accommodation can be made. If the accommodation cannot be made the employer must be able to demonstrate that the religious accommodation creates an undue hardship.
Articles Discussing Religious Discrimination Under Title VII Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the formation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division of the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The new division will review complaints from medical professionals who object on religious or moral grounds to participating in the provision of certain services and/or to certain patients. HHS has also released proposed regulations that would increase the OCR’s responsibility and enforcement power as to existing federal health care antidiscrimination laws involving protections for health care workers related to services such as abortion, sterilization, and assisted suicide.
The United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case with potentially far-reaching implications for issues at the intersection of civil rights and religious freedoms on December 5, 2017. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111.
Increasingly, employers are turning to biometric scanners – usually a fingerprint or hand scanner – to track employees’ working time. This method for clocking in and out is generally more efficient and accurate than traditional methods, such as using a punch clock.
Most employers know of the requirement to adjust any aspect of the working environment which may conflict with an employee’s religious beliefs. At the federal level, under Title VII, an employer must make reasonable accommodation for the religious observances of its employees, short of incurring an undue hardship. But what are religious accommodations? What proof may an employer request in order to establish that the employee is being sincere? The 4th Circuit recently examined a religious accommodation scenario that ended in an award of nearly $600,000 in damages and other benefits to the employee.
During a ceremony in the Rose Garden, President Trump signed a much-anticipated “Religious Liberty” executive order.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it filed a lawsuit last month against a South Carolina company that allegedly refused to accommodate a truck driver’s religious beliefs. The employee apparently subscribed to a Hebrew Pentecostal religious faith that forbade him from engaging in labor during the prescribed Sabbath (Saturday). The EEOC alleged that the trucking company engaged in religious discrimination against the driver after he was terminated for refusing to work a particular Saturday.
A New York federal court recently sided with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) as to whether a company’s internal conflict-resolution program was religious in nature.1 Because the program—called “Onionhead,” or occasionally, “Harnessing Happiness”—was deemed religious, the company was held potentially liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) for seeking to impose its own religious beliefs on employees.
A Boston hospital reasonably accommodated an employee’s religious objections to its influenza vaccination program by offering alternatives, but exempting the employee from the vaccination requirement would impose an undue hardship on the hospital because of the risk of infection to patients, a federal court in Massachusetts has concluded, granting the hospital’s motion for summary judgment in an employee’s religious discrimination suit. Leontine K. Robinson v. Children’s Hospital Boston, C.A. No. 14-10263-DJC (D. Mass. Apr. 5, 2016).
Religious institutions may always face complex questions as to whether, and which, legal exemptions apply to them in various situations. But a recent case in New Jersey federal court shines a narrow sliver of light onto this murky issue — at least in terms of discrimination and retaliation claims.
On April 12, 2016, a district court in Nebraska rejected the religious accommodation claims advanced by a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.1 In denying the religious accommodation claims, the court was forced to walk a narrow line between precedents that bar courts from questioning the centrality of a belief to an individual’s faith, and cases that allow courts to assess the religious nature of a plaintiff’s beliefs. Because the plaintiff is an inmate and not an employee, this case does not involve reasonable accommodations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). But the court’s evaluation of what makes a belief system a “religion” offers insight into how other courts may address this complex and sensitive issue. The decision also provides interesting reading.
Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis was recently jailed due to her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. In other news, a flight attendant refused to serve alcohol due to her religious beliefs. The public reaction to both situations was intense and the debate well-publicized. These events also highlight a new wave of confusion regarding the requirements facing employers with respect to religious accommodations. The answer for employers can differ widely depending upon the industry, jurisdiction, legislation and the specific interpretation of the laws at issue. Some states have enacted so-called religious freedom statutes and thus religious objectors have significant protections. Read on for tips to employers.
Most employers know that Title VII prohibits discrimination against applicants or employees based on religion. They also know that Title VII requires employers to provide reasonable, religion-based accommodations to employees who express such a need. But a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court clarifies that an employer can also become liable for religious discrimination – even when the employer had no knowledge of an applicant’s potential need for a religious accommodation – if the applicant’s religious practice was a “motivating factor” in the employer’s decision against hiring the applicant.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, reversing a Tenth Circuit win for the retailer in a religious discrimination case brought by a Muslim applicant who was denied employment due to her headscarf being a violation of Abercrombie’s dress policy – which prohibited caps of any kind.
Executive Summary: The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that an employer cannot escape liability for religious discrimination under Title VII by arguing that it did not have actual knowledge of an individual’s need for a religious accommodation. Reversing the Tenth Circuit’s decision in favor of the employer, in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., the Court held that an employer “may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.”