I’m an HR representative at an advertising agency based in New York City. We have a question about a religiously vocal employee.
Articles Discussing Reasonable Accommodations For Employees Based On Religious Beliefs.
This HRW Client Alert provides a brief overview of employer obligations and options when faced
with a religious accommodation request. Employers are strongly encouraged to discuss
accommodation requests with counsel as the decision whether to grant such requests is fact
specific and may depend on the workplace, the employee’s position, the basis for the request, and
evolving science and public health concerns.
With the holidays fast approaching, many employers are due for a refresh on how and when to provide religious accommodations to their employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.
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.
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).
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.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will consider whether an employer can be liable under Title VII for refusing to hire an applicant or discharging an employee based on a “religious observance and practice” if the individual did not directly and explicitly request an accommodation and the employer did not actually know the individual needed an accommodation. In the case now before the Supreme Court, EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that an employer will not be liable for failing to accommodate an applicant’s religious garb/grooming practice unless the applicant personally and explicitly tells the employer the practice is religious and seeks an accommodation.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in Adeyeye v. Heartland Sweeteners, Inc.,1 reminds employers that a very broad definition of “religion” applies in Title VII religious discrimination cases. Given this broad definition, employers must be sufficiently alert to perceive, or at least to inquire about, the possible religious nature of employees’ accommodation requests – even when those requests do not contain the word religion. The Adeyeye decision also cautions employers to make careful, case-by-case determinations as to whether granting a religious accommodation would impose an undue hardship. The decision also makes it clear that an employer will not be reasonably accommodating an employee if all the employer offers is the opportunity to resign, fulfill a religious obligation, and then reapply if there happens to be an open position available.
Many health care providers mandate certain types of shots or inoculations for their employees to reduce the risk of the spread of serious illnesses such as the flu. Hospitals and long-term care providers have increasingly taken a hard line when employees have refused to get vaccinated because some of their licensing standards require certain vaccinations. For other health care providers, it is viewed as a best practice to reduce the spread of illness and disease among the infirm and elderly. However, as some recent cases illustrate, employers need to exercise caution in taking an adverse employment action when an employee refuses to get vaccinated. For example, if an employee cannot have a flu shot or other inoculation due to a disability, this will likely preclude an employer from taking an adverse employment action against the employee.