Religious Accommodation

A religious accommodation is a benefit given to an employee, such as time off from work so that they can practice their religion.

Standard Methods of Religious Accommodation:

Work Schedule: Employers can accommodate employees by offering them flexibility in their work schedules, such as optional holidays, flexible breaks, and other ways to compensate for time lost due to religious activities. Allowing employees to transfer or take over other employees’ work shifts is another option.

Dress Code/Grooming Policies: Most businesses have a dress code and grooming policy that all employees must adhere to. Employees may request a reasonable accommodation if their religious views or practices conflict with the dress code or grooming policy. Not shaving or trimming their hair are examples of spiritual grooming habits. Religious attire might include clothing, head or face coverings, and other accessories. 

Prayer: An employee may request to use a working amenity, such as a quiet room for prayer during break time, as a religious accommodation. If this is the case, the employer should comply unless it would be an unreasonable hardship. 

When developing an employee handbook, you should take religious accommodations into account as a corporation. It will be much easier to handle religious accommodations if your organization has a defined method in place. Ensure that you are adhering to your legal obligations when writing these portions of the guidebook.

Four Tips For Handling Religious Accommodations:

1) Consider each request individually: 

When an applicant or employee informs you that her religious views prevent her from adhering to one of your policies, don’t assume that finding accommodation would be difficult or costly. Often, you may be able to provide a simple and inexpensive accommodation suitable for all parties concerned.

2)Anything more than nominal is undue hardship:

Administrative costs associated with changing an employee’s schedule or rare overtime pay will typically be considered de minimis and hence not an excessive burden. However, anything above and above usual administrative costs, such as hiring more personnel, paying for regular overtime work, or violating a collective bargaining agreement, will be considered excessive.

3) Be flexible on scheduling

When an employee (or a group of employees) is unable to work specific days or hours due to religious convictions, one of the most difficult accommodation difficulties occurs. 

To prevent a scheduling clash with a religious commitment, you may compel an employee to take a vacation or other paid time off as an accommodation. You might also let her swap shifts with other employees or work extra hours on a different day to make up for the time she lost. 

4) Don’t segregate workers who need religious accommodations

As a reasonable religious accommodation, you may agree to allow a female Muslim employee to wear a headscarf at work, despite your policy prohibiting employees from wearing any hats or other headgear. But then you send her to the back office and tell her she isn’t allowed to interact with your customers in person. It’s possible that your decision to separate or treat this employee differently because she wears a headscarf for religious reasons is considered religious discrimination.

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