EMPLOYERS MUST PROVIDE REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR EMPLOYEES’ RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

The law states that employers must reasonably accommodate workers’ religious practices, unless doing so poses an undue hardship on their business. Several examples of reasonable religious accommodations include providing flexible scheduling for religious holidays, allowing religious dress and grooming, and making exceptions to workplace policies. Two recent lawsuits provide good examples of the extent to which employers are required to accommodate their employees’ religions:

EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch

In June, the Supreme Court issued a decision that emphasized that employers are prohibited from making hiring and employment decisions based on an employee or applicant’s religious garments. The case involved a Muslim job applicant who was denied employment at Abercrombie and Fitch because her headscarf violated the brand’s dress code.

Abercrombie and Fitch argued that since the applicant had not explained she wore her headscarf for religious reasons during the interview, the store was under no obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation to their dress code policy. The Supreme Court’s rejected this argument and found that as long as an employer can reasonably infer that a jobseeker wears a garment for religious reasons, it may not make hiring decisions based on that garment.

EEOC v. Consol Energy, Inc. and Consolidation Coal Company

In August, a federal court awarded over half a million dollars to a former employee of Consol Energy who was fired because he refused to follow a workplace policy that violated his religious beliefs. According to the lawsuit, the employee refused to use a biometric hand scanner to track his attendance because doing so would violate his beliefs as an Evangelical Christian. The employee wrote to company officials explaining that his refusal was related to his beliefs, and requested that he be exempted from the requirement.

The employer declined to accommodate his beliefs by providing a different way to track his attendance, and told him that he would face discipline if he continued to refuse to use the scanner. Ultimately, he was forced to retire because of his refusal to comply. After filing a lawsuit, the employee was awarded $150,000 in damages, and over $400,000 in back pay and front pay.

Contact us if your employer refuses to accommodate your religious beliefs

Employees should not be forced to choose between their religious beliefs and their job. If you have been denied reasonable accommodations for your religious practices at work, contact the Akin Law Group as soon as possible to discuss the details of your case with an experienced employment lawyer.