When May perhaps an Employer Reject a Religious Accommodation Request?

​An employer that involves vaccinations against COVID-19 have to grant sincere spiritual lodging requests, so lengthy as they will not bring about an undue hardship on the corporation. How can a organization convey to no matter if an objection to vaccination is primarily based on a truly held religious perception and accommodate without the need of making an undue hardship?

“Due to the fact it is so really hard to properly challenge whether or not a distinct perception is truly held, most businesses will likely choose to skip the first stage and go straight to the lodging issue,” claimed Anthony George, an legal professional with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in Denver.

Sincerely Held Spiritual Perception

The Equal Employment Option Commission’s (EEOC’s)
steerage on COVID-19 and EEO laws states that employers “need to ordinarily assume that an employee’s ask for for religious lodging is based on a sincerely held religious belief, apply or observance.”

“Underneath this assistance, companies must request extra information and facts only in the uncommon scenarios when the employer has an objective basis to question whether the worker is sincere or to problem no matter if the employee’s perception is really religious in character,” mentioned Erika Todd, an legal professional with Sullivan & Worcester in Boston.

“What is considered a religious perception under Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] is really broad and complicated for businesses to problem,” explained Jill Cohen, an attorney with Eckert Seamans in Lawrenceville, N.J.

The EEOC has stated in its
compliance handbook on religious discrimination that the definition of “religion” extends to standard religions as well as spiritual beliefs that are “new, unusual, not part of a official church or sect, only subscribed to by a tiny variety of persons, or that appear to be illogical or unreasonable to many others.”

“Beliefs pertaining only to financial, social, particular tastes, or political ideals commonly are not thought of spiritual for applications of Title VII,” Cohen explained.

“If the objection refers to obscure constitutional rights or political views or purely natural regulation, then the employer may possibly fairly conclude that the objection is not primarily based in religion and might be overruled,” George said.

“Problems about vaccine protection, toxicity, efficacy, the trustworthiness of the media, govt or the pharmaceutical market are not religious beliefs,” explained Richard Reice, an lawyer with Kauff McGuire & Margolis in New York Metropolis.

That mentioned, an
employee with a incapacity may require to be excused from a vaccine mandate.

“Companies [that] develop an goal foundation for questioning either the spiritual mother nature or the sincerity of a particular perception are permitted to find more supporting facts, as vital, to make a acceptable business selection,” claimed Joseph Vaughan, an attorney with Vaughan Baio & Partners in Philadelphia.

Companies must look at 4 things set up by the EEOC in its
thoughts and responses on religious discrimination in the workplace. These components may well undermine an employee’s assertion that he or she sincerely retains the religious belief at situation and incorporate whether:

  • The employee has behaved in a way markedly inconsistent with the professed perception.
  • The lodging sought is a specifically fascinating benefit that is probably to be sought for secular causes.
  • The timing of the request renders it suspect—for example, it follows an before request by the worker for the similar gain for secular good reasons.
  • The employer normally has rationale to consider the accommodation is not sought for spiritual motives.

Employers at times concern the sincerity of a spiritual belief by probing into irrespective of whether the worker has acted contrary to the perception in the earlier, Cohen famous.

For illustration, some staff members have asked for lodging to vaccinations centered on the alleged use of fetal mobile strains in the first tests of the drug, she reported. In reaction,
some businesses are inquiring these employees to certify that they equally do not choose other common medicines that use fetal mobile lines in testing, these kinds of as Tylenol, Motrin and other
widespread medicine, Cohen said.

Bona fide question that a religious perception is truly held could also exist if an personnel who will get a flu shot every single 12 months now asserts that his or her religion prohibits piercing the skin, George claimed.

Even so, Cohen reported, if performing contrary to the spiritual belief is explainable, the inconsistency might not be sufficient to conclude that the religious belief is insincere.

Undue Hardship

Businesses need to try out to moderately accommodate staff with honest religious beliefs if the workforce question for an accommodation, but they don’t have to provide accommodations that would end result in an undue hardship.

The normal for undue hardship is decreased underneath Title VII—which prohibits religious discrimination—than beneath the Americans with Disabilities Act. Below Title VII, undue hardship has been described as much more than a negligible burden, claimed Tracey Diamond, an legal professional with Troutman Pepper in Princeton, N.J., and Philadelphia.

Because COVID-19 has killed more than 700,000 men and women in the U.S. “and unvaccinated staff are more very likely to get COVID-19 and transmit COVID-19 to other people, companies will have a compelling argument that enabling unvaccinated employees into the place of work would be an undue hardship,” George claimed.

In producing an undue hardship dedication, “businesses will want to contemplate the value to the firm and no matter if the lodging will impose a direct risk to others,” Diamond said

Even if unvaccinated entry into the office would be an undue hardship, that would not end the inquiry, George reported. “The employer ought to still consider irrespective of whether some substitute is feasible.”

Choices could involve schedule COVID-19 testing, mask putting on, social distancing and doing the job remotely, famous Abby Warren, an lawyer with Robinson & Cole in Hartford, Conn.

“Some employees may perhaps be entitled to a religious exemption to the vaccine mandate but nevertheless come across by themselves out of a occupation when the employer is not able to accommodate that exemption without the need of it producing an undue hardship,” stated Helene Hechtkopf, an lawyer with Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney in New York City.

“Termination could be legally permissible, but there is a risk that dissatisfied previous staff members will pursue litigation,” cautioned Erika Todd, an attorney with Sullivan & Worcester in Boston.

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