• Accomodating Religious Beliefs
  • April 2, 2014 | Author: Paul F. Keneally
  • Law Firm: Underberg & Kessler LLP - Rochester Office
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that claims of religious discrimination are on the rise, more than double in fiscal 2013 than in fiscal 1997. The claims predominantly involve religious grooming and garb, and employers must reasonably accommodate those religious preferences of applicants and employees unless the employer can show undue hardship to the business. The EEOC recently issued guidance on these issues, noting that undue hardship must be “more than [a] de minimis” cost or burden to the business operation.

    Employers are permitted to retain their regular grooming and garb policies for other employees, even when making a religious accommodation for one or more employees, and employee jealousy may not be considered in the undue hardship analysis. Customer or client preference and the employer’s “image” are also largely irrelevant, though workforce safety may be considered. Covering up religious symbols may be an acceptable accommodation, but generally only where doing so would not violate the employee’s religious beliefs.

    Employers should immediately include religious discrimination in their regular training sessions, and consult with labor and employment counsel should a religious garb or grooming issue arise.