Religious Accommodations at Work

Beth Dean 02.12.24
Graphic - Blog 2024-02-13 - Religious accommodations at work

What Businesses Need to Know

Last week, we discussed collaborating with employees who request religious accommodations during Ramadan. This week, we’ll look at some of the nuts and bolts of religious accommodations at work and the impact of last year’s Supreme Court case, Groff v. DeJoy.

The Groff v. DeJoy decision, as we covered when it passed in 2023, impacts how employers approach religious accommodation requests in the workplace. Here’s what you need to know:

The Standard

Before Groff v. DeJoy, it was easier for employers to justify denying an accommodation. Employers could previously deny religious accommodations, even if they were inexpensive or easy to implement. 

Now, employers must demonstrate a significant financial or operational burden to deny a request. When evaluating an undue hardship to the company, courts will consider factors that include the accommodations and the nature, size, and operating costs of the employer. The employer must be able to show documentation where they engaged and provided options before denying the request.

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations, but not necessarily the specific accommodation requested by the employee. Be prepared to demonstrate that the company has considered alternative accommodations if denying a request.

What This Means for Employers:

  • Be careful when denying religious accommodation requests. Document your reasons thoroughly and ensure they truly represent a significant burden.
  • Explore creative solutions. Consider scheduling adjustments, job reassignments, or other options that minimize the impact on your business.
  • Be transparent and consistent. Explain your decision-making process and apply it fairly to all religious accommodation requests.
  • Review your policies and procedures. Ensure they comply with the Groff v. DeJoy standard and provide clear guidance for employees and managers.
  • Develop a clear and unbiased religious accommodation policy. Consult with HR professionals or legal counsel for assistance. Train your team on the policy and answer any questions they have.
  • Open communication is key. Foster a respectful dialogue with employees about their religious needs and potential accommodations.

The Groff v. DeJoy decision intends to encourage transparent communication and flexibility when handling religious accommodation requests. By proactively addressing these requests and showing sensitivity, you can create a welcoming and inclusive work environment that benefits all employees.

For further guidance on religious accommodations at work, consult with your HR team or legal counsel.

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