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Accommodating Employees' Religious Beliefs

Hillary Pettegrew, Esq.
July 2023

Why Read This

Accommodating employees’ religious beliefs involves a tricky balance. On one hand, employers want to be inclusive and respectful of differing religious views in an increasingly diverse workforce. On the other hand, employers must consider the impact on co-workers.

Poor handling of a situation can create resentment or even litigation that disrupts the work environment.

Determining whether a religious belief is sincerely held and the employee’s request for accommodation is reasonable is a legal minefield, particularly when the request involves a hardship to the employer. In addition, employers must know the legal rules for regulating employees who wish to express their religious views in the workplace.

Key Takeaways

  • To receive accommodation, an employee’s religious beliefs must be sincerely held but don’t need to represent the views of a large or mainstream religious organization.
  • Employers can ask for clarification of an employee’s religious views in limited circumstances, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided guidance on signs indicating that religious beliefs aren’t sincerely held.
  • An employer is obligated to provide a religious accommodation unless it creates an undue hardship; following a 2023 Supreme Court case, this means the accommodation would “result in substantial increased costs” to the business. However, the employer is only required to provide a reasonable accommodation, which may differ from the employee’s preferred accommodation.

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