How to Drive Back again on Religious Accommodation Requests

​Employers can press back—gently—on spiritual lodging requests and do not have to grant requests that would consequence in an undue hardship, which is a lot a lot easier for businesses to clearly show for religious accommodation requests than incapacity lodging requests.

“Attempt your toughest to accommodate. If accommodation is easy, do it,” mentioned Kelly Dobbs Bunting, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig in Philadelphia, speaking at the SHRM Work Legislation & Compliance Meeting 2022 on March 30 in Washington, D.C.

If an employer has experimented with all the things else, unpaid leave is satisfactory. Bunting pointed out that organizations that formerly placed personnel on unpaid leave when they declined COVID-19 vaccinations for religious explanations are now bringing them back to the place of work.

Undue Hardship Investigation

An employer doesn’t have to offer a religious accommodation if it poses an undue hardship to a small business. If it impacts basic safety, the employer can also say no to the lodging request, she stated. For instance, if someone wants to don lengthy, unfastened-fitting spiritual attire close to a bagel slicer, the employer could possibly decline the ask for, but check out to obtain yet another position for the worker away from the bagel slicer.

A company also might reject a religious lodging request if the accommodation would decrease office performance, these as if anyone else has to protect the worktime of the worker who is missing do the job frequently, she stated. The other workers might wind up leaving owing to the extra workload. An employer that rejects these kinds of a ask for need to be Okay if it’s sued in these circumstances, and it most likely will be sued, she included.

If an accommodation would violate a collective bargaining settlement, it would final result in an undue hardship.

As opposed to with incapacity lodging, expense generally could be a successful undue hardship argument for employers when religious accommodations are asked for. For example, if an employer has to employ a temporary employee to protect Saturdays for an worker who misses shifts then for spiritual explanations, there may possibly be an undue hardship in accommodating the employee, she reported.

New Steering from the EEOC

Businesses can ask for additional info when spiritual lodging are asked for, Bunting observed.

According to new steerage from the Equal Work Opportunity Fee (EEOC), employers can press back when there is:

  • Inconsistent behavior with the professed belief.
  • Suspicious timing.
  • Other objective factors that the employer has to believe that the requested lodging isn’t really getting sought for religious explanations.

HR might talk with supervisors and inquire about irrespective of whether the man or woman talks about faith at operate or has ever requested for precise days off.

If an employee is resisting an employer-essential COVID-19 vaccine simply because it was derived from fetal cell lines, the employer may possibly ask irrespective of whether the worker has received a flu vaccine or has ever taken a treatment that was likewise created—and there are lots of, which includes aspirin. The employer should not assume there is an undue hardship or automatically reject the asked for lodging but interact in a discussion with the worker about accommodation, Bunting reported.

If an employee asks for time off on Saturdays to attend a spiritual support but also is recognised to show up at a drag racing club then, the employer can thrust back and ask if the employee will go to the religious company or the drag race. If the employer discovers the personnel lied, then the employer has an more element to think about. Supplied the latest labor lack, the employer may not want to get rid of the personnel or have the worker complain about the business on social media, she added.

Suspicious timing may well crop up if a worker requests and is denied time off on a Saturday and then the worker promises to have joined a religious business that fulfills then and revives the ask for.

Other goal good reasons that a request is not for religious factors may possibly contain if the employee says he or she only places organic substances into his or her system, defining organic substances as all those that appear from dirt. This isn’t definitely a spiritual request, so the employer can thrust back again and request a letter from a religion chief, she stated.

Bunting recalled 1 employee who claimed that getting a supporter of the Philadelphia Eagles was a faith and he essential Sundays off. When Title VII of the Civil Legal rights Act of 1964 will not go as considerably as encompassing sporting activities as a faith, the EEOC does outline religions as together with spiritual beliefs that are new or unheard of, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a smaller selection of persons, or illogical or unreasonable to other folks.

If companies get an lodging ask for from a believer in a faith that is so obscure you can find no religion chief, Bunting proposed asking the staff to e-mail HR a paragraph describing why the employee desires to be accommodated for religious motives, judging its sincerity and, if established to be sincere, granting the accommodation.

Very best Tactics

Bunting concluded by outlining finest methods to follow when dealing with spiritual lodging requests:

  • Treat every single employee’s acceptable lodging ask for as genuine on its face. Don’t, for illustration, mechanically giggle when an personnel says he or she is a follower of the Jedi. The Jedi faith is mentioned by the army as a person of extra than 200 religions it acknowledges.
  • Make lodging policies clear, and apply them equally even if the employer has never ever heard of the faith.
  • Coach administrators to recognize spiritual exemption requests and to refer them to HR.
  • Do not be afraid to carefully query the sincerity of the religion.
  • Be informed of variations in point out regulation. For example, Montana’s governor created vaccination standing a secured classification less than the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Nevertheless, the law permits wellbeing treatment amenities to ask their staff to volunteer their immunization position in order to style and design and implement accommodation actions to secure the safety and overall health of staff, patients and visitors.
  • Doc accommodations the employer experimented with to make and that the employee turned down.

If an employee rejects a excellent lodging that an employer has provided, “you’re golden,” Bunting claimed.

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