- Pay Disparity
- Religious accomodation in the workplace
- Equal pay and prior salary information
- I quit! How to avoid constructive discharge
- You Can't Shred Email
- Navigating Unemployment Claims
- Considering Criminal History in Pre-Employment Decisions
- Defamation Claims from Former Employees
- Mixed Motive Causation
- Requesting Accomodation: Kowitz v. Trinity Health
- Antitrust Law in Human Resources
- An Evolving Standard: Joint-Employment
- What Does At-Will Employment Mean for Employers?
- Let's Talk About Wages
- THE FLSA: CHANGES ARE COMING
- Follow Up: Obesity and the ADA
- The Importance of Social Media Policies
- Is Obesity a Qualifying Disability under the ADA?
- Retaliation on the Rise: The EEOC Responds
- What Motivates You?
- "But I thought ...
- Who’s expecting? And what is he expecting?
- Are You Still Doing Annual Performance Reviews?
- Who is Your Employee?
- The unpaid intern trap Part II
- “We’ve been the victim of a cyber-attack”
- So, a Hasidic Jew, a nun in a habit and a woman wearing a headscarf walk into your office?
- The unpaid intern trap
- Pregnancy in the workplace
- Let's talk about honesty.
- "Did You Know" Series - Part I
- Conducting an Internal Investigation
- What HR can look forward to in 2015!
- The chokehold of workplace technology
- Does your company have trade secrets?
- North Dakota Construction Law Compendium for 2014
- Does the North Dakota baby boom affect you?
- Ban the Box? Why?
- The end of the world as we know it
- Everybody has an opinion
- Changes, Changes, Changes!
- Nick Grant presents at North Dakota Safety Council's 41st Annual Safety and Health Conference
- Email impairment: A potentially harmful condition
- Are Employers Required to Give Stressed-Out Employees Time Off?
- Can you obtain a credit report when investigating employee wrongdoing?
- Can’t we just sidestep the ACA?
- Should Your Employees Telecommute? Part III
- Should Your Employees Telecommute? Part II
- Should Your Employees Telecommute?
- Proper Investigation of Employee Misconduct
- Battles in the Wellness War
- Rules are rules! Aren’t they?
- What's going on in Bismarck
- A glimpse ahead
- Obesity as a disability under the ADA – reweighing the issue
- What’s next for your business under the Affordable Care Act?
- Criminal Background Checks
- Becoming a lawyer is a process, not an event [Section 5 of 5]
- Congress Says Yes To North Slope Energy Jobs Bill
- Test Your Knowledge of Social Media Policies and Employee Discipline
- Becoming a lawyer is a process, not an event [Section 4 of 5]
- What Every Employer Needs to Know About the NLRA
- Will the 2012 Elections Make A Difference
- Where There's Smoke...
- Dress Code Etiquette: Is Casual Friday Becoming Freaky Friday
- The Next Disaster May Be Yours
- Hostile Work Environment Claims
- North Dakota Employment Law Links
- There's An App For That
- Am I a “Business Associate”? Why Should I Care?
- Do You Recognize a Cat's Paw When You See One?
- Cell Phones Can Cost a Lot, Part II
- Becoming a lawyer is a process, not an event [Section 3 of 5]
- Cell Phones Can Cost a Lot, Part I
- The Economy - What HR Professionals Need To Know
- Becoming a lawyer is a process, not an event [Section 2 of 5]
- Three New Challenges For HR Professionals
Religious accomodation in the workplaceBy: Allison Mann
Religious accommodation has once again made news with a legal horror story from which every human resource professional should learn. A West Virginia company was recently faced with a half-million-dollar lawsuit regarding its refusal to offer religious accommodation, and the employee came out with the win. This case provides the perfect opportunity to refresh your recollection as to the requirements of offering religious accommodation in the workplace.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act provides that employers may not discriminate based on religion. This includes refusing to offer reasonable accommodations for an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. The definition of religion under Title VII includes both traditional religions (Judaism, Christianity, Buddism, etc.) along with more contemporary or uncommon beliefs. As long as the belief or request stems from a religious root, an employer must generally offer reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship to the employer.
EEOC v. Consul Energy:
Now, for the case that has sparked attention to this topic and sparked new debate. It comes to us out of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Consul Energy, our defendant, was implementing biometric scanners as a new monitoring protocol at the coal mine at which the plaintiff worked. The scanners required the employees to scan their hand when coming to or going from work. The plaintiff, a devout evangelical Christian, informed his supervisors that this practice would conflict with his religious beliefs. In sum, the employee believes that use of the hand scanner is correlated with the Mark of the Beast referred to in the Book of Revelation. Plaintiff believed that use of the hand scanner would result in being “marked” for the Antichrist. He would not be able to use this new system, and requested an accommodation.
The employer refused to accommodate the plaintiff, despite the fact that it had already offered accommodation to several other employees that suffered from hand injuries. The employee quit his job to avoid violating his religious beliefs. The EEOC brought suit, prevailed at the District Court, and then Consul Energy appealed.
Consul Energy’s main argument to the Fourth Circuit was essentially that the plaintiff would be able to use the scanner without violating his religious beliefs because the scanner would leave no actual mark—which plaintiff acknowledged. Plaintiffs belief, however, did not require a physical mark. The court sided with the plaintiff, holding that it is not the employer’s place to question the correctness or the plausibility of the religious belief, as long as it is sincerely held by the employee. There was no question that accommodating the employee would have caused Consul Energy an undue hardship, as it had already accommodated other employees. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the award in favor of the plaintiff.
It is clear that ignoring religious accommodation can result in serious consequences to employers. Religious accommodation can come in many forms. Some common accommodations include the following:
However, as demonstrated by the Consul Energy case, a requested accommodation is not limited to these more common circumstances. Employers should have a plan in place to react to, evaluate, and address requests for reasonable accommodation due to religious beliefs. In addition, it is advised that employers contact competent counsel when specific questions arise.
Our interest in serving you
My law firm’s goal is to give understandable information and to foster discussion about real-life issues facing human resource professionals. If we are not achieving that goal or if you would like us to address other employment law issues, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We promise to take your comments and ideas to heart.
(Otherwise known as “the fine print”)
I make a serious effort to be accurate in my writings. These articles are not exhaustive treatises, though, so do not consider them complete or authoritative. Providing this information to you does not create an attorney-client relationship with my firm or me. Do not act upon the contents of this or of any article on our homepage or consider it a replacement for professional advice.
Reprinted with permission from an article submitted for publication in the August, 2017 Southwest Area Human Resource Association newsletter.