HR Minute

Tips on Religious Requirements in the Workplace

We are currently seeing more issues arising in the workplace concerning religion. Below are some points an employer should remember in dealing with religious issues. There is no “one size fits all” solution to the challenges presented in this area. Each case should be analyzed on specific facts.

  • Religion includes all aspects of religious observation and practice, as well as beliefs.
  • An employer may have to accommodate an employee’s religious observance or practice unless there is an undue hardship.
  • Undue hardship is anything more than a minimal burden or cost to the employer.
  • An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.
  • Reasonable accommodations may include flexible arrival and departure times, floating or optional holidays, flexible work breaks, use of lunchtime in exchange for early departure, staggered work hours, and allowing an appropriate space for prayer.
  • Employers do not have to allow employees to proselytize their religious beliefs. Evangelizing to customers may amount to an undue hardship and may be prohibited.
  • Allowing employees to wear clothing mandated by their religious beliefs may be a required accommodation in many jobs. For example, allowing employees to wear particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf), or allowing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard) may be required.
  • Employers should be careful about requiring employees to wear clothing that conflicts with religious prohibitions, such as a religious prohibition against wearing pants or miniskirts.
  • Religious symbols, facial piercings, and other identifications concerning religious beliefs may be prohibited based on the circumstances.
  • Distribution of religious materials may be prohibited.
  • Harassment because of religion is unlawful.

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