With an estimated 4,200 different religions in the world, it can be challenging for an organization to accommodate religious observances. Most religions can be categorized into several main faiths, such as Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism.
According to the “Civil Rights Act” businesses are required to accommodate their workers’ religious needs, as long as doing so won’t impose more than a minimal cost to their business. Yet many businesses are failing their obligation under US law to provide time off for employees with religious needs.
In fact, according to the Office of Research, Information and Planning, there has been approximately a 33 percent increase in the number of charges filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alleging religious-based discrimination in the last decade.
The case of Samantha Elauf vs Abercrombie & Fitch made it all the way to the Supreme Court. The court ruled 8 -1 in her favor, after the clothing company had denied her a job because her hijab violated the company’s ‘look policy’.
Keep in mind that companies that can show undue hardship if they accommodate religious practices are not required to adhere, however the hardship requires more than ordinary administrative costs, and a decrease in productivity or efficiency. You must show that accommodating time off would conflicts with another law or regulation, impact workplace safety, or force co-workers to do potentially hazardous or burdensome work if the employee was absent.
To avoid legal problems it’s best to be proactive and create a diversity and inclusions policy for your organization. Look at how you allocate breaks throughout the day for lunch, smoking or bathroom use, as well as setting aside time for praying.
Try to accommodate religious observances by allowing employees to take time off even though the dates of those observances do not align with your holiday schedule.
Diversity and inclusion are the key in creating a diverse environment, which means HR professionals must address the different values and behaviors in order for the organization to thrive. If you’d like to learn more about refining your workplace culture and creating a diverse environment,
with our Director of Diversity Services, Bill Shackelford.
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