Step-by-Action Information for Managing Employees’ Spiritual Accommodation Requests | Locke Lord LLP

As additional businesses commence to mandate vaccines, requests for spiritual accommodations are on the increase. Sad to say for businesses and workers alike, dealing with a religious accommodation request is not a easy approach. When confronted with spiritual accommodation requests by workers, employers should really think about the ask for through the adhering to framework:

Phase 1. Does the staff have a “religious belief”?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guards personnel from discrimination based on their “religion.” The definition of faith less than the Civil Legal rights Act expands far beyond common religious groups, these as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Lesser identified religions, which include all those that may have no other followers in addition to the employee, might drop inside of the wide definition of “religion.” On top of that, the time period “religion” also incorporates non-theistic and moral beliefs that worry top suggestions about lifetime, reason, and demise. For illustration, at the very least just one federal district court has held that, less than certain conditions, “veganism” could be thought of a faith. For these good reasons, the U.S. Supreme Court docket acknowledged that identifying no matter if a belief is “religious” is “more frequently than not a tricky and fragile task.”

Even so, even however the definition of religion is broad, it does not include political, philosophical, social, economic, or even clinical beliefs and views. Generally, distinguishing concerning spiritual and other beliefs can be difficult for businesses and workforce, building the employer/staff dialogue an essential part of absolutely comprehending an employee’s spiritual beliefs and what these beliefs prohibit. To assistance aid this dialogue, the Safer Federal Workforce Job Pressure produced a spiritual lodging request kind that provides employees an initial option to reveal their lodging ask for. Even though not still pointed out in the EEOC’s advice, this kind is being widely utilized with federal workers. In addition to an preliminary request sort, some employers are requesting, and some staff are volunteering, extra supporting documentation, which can also provide insight all over the interactive method.

Phase 2. Is the religious belief “sincerely held”?

If an staff requests an accommodation based mostly on a spiritual belief, then the employer may possibly assess irrespective of whether that perception is “sincerely held” by the staff. The EEOC factors employers to unique components when analyzing whether an employee’s spiritual belief is sincere. These 4 factors incorporate:

  1. regardless of whether the employee has behaved in a way markedly inconsistent with the professed belief
  2. whether or not the accommodation sought is a especially fascinating reward that is probably to be sought for secular good reasons
  3. no matter whether the timing of the request renders it suspect (e.g., it follows an previously request by the staff for the same reward for secular explanations) and
  4. whether or not the employer in any other case has purpose to consider the accommodation is not sought for spiritual good reasons.

This checklist is non-exhaustive and no solitary element is dispositive. Notably, on the other hand, even if an personnel sometimes deviates from the tenants of a distinct faith, or the perception is newly-adopted, the perception may possibly not be for every se insincere, and additional examination may perhaps be required.

Whilst businesses may perhaps in the long run be confirmed proper, rejecting a spiritual assert for a deficiency of sincerity could perhaps guide to litigation, so companies need to proceed carefully when making this determination and provide employees the chance to explain the causes and need for their accommodation.

Stage 3. Is there a realistic accommodation?

The last action in addressing a religious accommodation request is deciding no matter whether there is a acceptable lodging for the personnel. Companies are demanded to attempt to meet up with the employee’s religious requirements as a result of reasonable lodging however, they are not necessary to offer or accept an lodging that would bring about an undue hardship.

What constitutes a realistic accommodation depends on the specific information of the employee’s place and the desires of the office. In the context of vaccines, sensible accommodations may contain: necessary mask carrying, social distancing, normal screening, modified perform hours, or remote perform. But, featuring a acceptable lodging is not a one-dimension-fits-all strategy some of these accommodations—such as distant working—may not be acceptable since they impose an undue hardship on the employer or are only not sensible for some positions or for some businesses.

Companies who identify an lodging is not affordable for a particular condition should really know that the onus will be on the employer to clearly show that the proposed lodging caused an undue hardship, which is more than a “de minimis” expense or stress. This is a reduced load than incapacity accommodation requests. When determining no matter if an lodging brings about an undue hardship to the employer, the EEOC and federal courts could look at the following:

  • Expenses of implementing the accommodation,
  • Whether or not the lodging diminishes efficiency in other positions,
  • Whether the accommodation infringes on other employees’ occupation legal rights or positive aspects,
  • No matter whether the lodging impairs office basic safety,
  • No matter if the lodging brings about coworkers to have the accommodated employee’s share of potentially harmful or burdensome do the job, and
  • No matter if the proposed lodging conflicts with a further legislation will also be regarded.

Employers and employees must explore these religious lodging problems to best recognize how every ask for really should be dealt with. Companies faced with religious accommodation requests should really cautiously take into account these difficulties to navigate the complicated lawful needs and decrease the risks of non-compliance.

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