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Accommodating religious practices in the workplace

Employers cannot refuse to hire employees because they may need reasonable accommodations for their religious beliefs.

While offering prayer may be a constitutionally-permissible practice, it nevertheless carries the risk of creating tensions among employees who do not share the same beliefs and, if taken too far, may be used as evidence of religious harassment or discrimination.In order to prove a claim of hostile work environment based on religious beliefs, or lack of them, an employee must show that the harassment was: (1) based on his religious beliefs; (2) unwelcome; (3) sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment; and (4) that there is a basis for employer liability.To support a religious harassment claim, the adverse treatment must be based upon religion or the refusal to follow a religious practice.In short, an employer violates the Civil Rights Act when its actions coerce an employee to abandon, alter, or adopt a particular religious practice as a condition of receiving a job benefit or avoiding adverse action.An employer does not, however, engage in coercion when it requires an employee to participate in a workplace activity that conflicts with the employee’s sincerely held religious belief, so long as the employer can demonstrate that it would constitute an undue hardship in order to accommodate an employee’s request to be excused.Moreover, employees who do not wish to participate in prayer should be given the non-derisive opportunity to be excluded from doing so, unless the employer can show that excluding them would create an undue hardship – such as having to excuse people for a 20 second prayer for everyone’s safety before going underground or starting a risky procedure.In sum, while allowing brief prayers in the workplace is not per se discriminatory, it does require: a) a balancing of all persons’ rights to the free expression of their religion; b) the need to reasonably accommodate differing religious views; c) ensuring a workplace where there is no unlawful discriminatory action toward someone expressing a different religious view; and d) avoiding the creation of a hostile work environment.The federal Civil Rights Act prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees on the basis of their religion, which conduct may take the form of adverse employment actions, harassment, or the failure to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs.Employers commit religious discrimination if they take adverse action against an employee, or potential employee, based on the employee’s religious beliefs, practices, or observances, or lack thereof.If more than one accommodation is possible, the employer must offer the one which least impacts the employee’s employment opportunities.How does one figure out if a particular religion or practice is legitimate? Employees are protected whether the religious views in question are mainstream or non-traditional, and even if not recognized by any organized religion.


  1. Religious observances or practices may include, among other things, praying, dietary restrictions, and refraining from work on particular days. Note, however, that when one of these practices is followed for purely secular reasons, the employer is under no obligation to grant a request for accommodation.

  2. The law also requires employers to accommodate their employees’ religious beliefs and practices, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship. In other words, employers are also required to take their employees’ religion into account when making job decisions.

  3. The need for religious accommodation may arise where an individual's religious beliefs, observances or practices conflict with a specific task or requirement of the position or an application process. Accommodation requests often relate to work schedules, dress and grooming, or religious expression in the workplace. If it would not pose an.

  4. Available reasonable alternative means of accommodating the religious belief or observation, but is unable to reasonably accommodate the religious belief or observance without undue hardship on the conduct of the business of the employer.” Govt. Code §12940l California Workplace Religious Freedom Act, effective

  5. Arecent survey of American workers suggests that religious discrimination is a growing workplace concern. 1 Indeed, there has been an eighty-seven percent increase in the number of religious discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC over the past ten years. 2 Increasing religious diversity 3 in the.

  6. To accommodate an employee's religious practices 7. The EEOC has interpreted this to mean that an The EEOC has interpreted this to mean that an employer can show that a requested accommodation causes it an undue hardship if accommodating an

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