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.
Articles Discussing General Topics Regarding Religious Discrimination Claims Under Title VII Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are companies legally required to allow employees to take time off for religious holidays, even if there’s a backlog of work?
Most employers recognize that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace and requires private employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s religious practices and beliefs, subject to limited exceptions. Private employers with 15 or more employees are covered under Title VII. Many state laws also prohibit religious discrimination by private employers, and typically cover employers with fewer than 15 employees.
In 1996 Bruce Anderson, the “Vegan Bus Driver,” gained renown when he was fired from an Orange County, California transit authority for refusing to distribute hamburger coupons as part of a promotional campaign. Anderson filed a charge of religious discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which concluded that the authority violated Title VII by failing to accommodate moral and ethical beliefs that Anderson held with the strength of traditional religious views.