Religious Accommodations, the Supreme Court, and Your Company

Beth Dean 09.12.23
Weekly Tip Blog Header - 2023-09-12 Religious Accommodations

Employers Must Now Prove “Substantial Increased Cost” to Deny Religious Accommodation

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that employers must now demonstrate a substantially increased cost to deny an employee’s request for a religious accommodation. 

This ruling, which comes in the case of Groff v. DeJoy, clarifies the standard for “undue hardship” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on religion, race, color, sex, and national origin.

Previously, the standard for undue hardship was whether the accommodation would impose more than a minimal cost on the employer. This meant employers could deny religious accommodations even if they were inexpensive or easy to implement. The Groff decision changes this, requiring employers to show that the accommodation would impose a significant financial or operational burden on their business.

So, what does this ruling mean for employers? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be careful when denying religious accommodations. You must show that the accommodation would impose a significant financial or operational burden on your business.
  • Be more creative in accommodating religious employees. Consider alternative scheduling arrangements, job reassignments, or other accommodations that would not burden your business significantly.
  • Be more transparent in your decision-making process regarding religious accommodations. Document your reasons for denying an accommodation and be able to explain how the accommodation would have imposed a significant burden on your business.

Employers should take this opportunity to review their policies and procedures to ensure that they are in compliance with the new standard. 

Here are some additional tips for employers:

  • Be proactive.
    Don’t wait for an employee to request a religious accommodation before considering how you will handle requests. Think through your company’s stance and create an unbiased handbook policy. Then, take each request on a case-by-case basis with the help of an HR pro or attorney. 
  • Be flexible.
    Be willing to work with your employees to find a solution that meets their religious needs and does not impose a significant burden on your business. There are often creative ways to accommodate religious employees that do not require a lot of time or expense.
  • Document everything.
    If you deny a religious accommodation, document your reasons for doing so and be able to show a significant burden or cost this would cause your business. This documentation will help you if the employee later challenges your decision.

The Groff decision is a significant development in the law of religious accommodations. For help applying this to your employees, please get in touch with an attorney and your HR Business Partner at Nextep.

Also on Nextep

When Addiction Strikes at Work The issue of addiction in the workplace presents a complex challenge for both employers and employees. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects qualified individuals with disabilities, but active addiction itself isn’t necessarily covered. Here’s a breakdown of rights and responsibilities: Employee Rights Under the ADA Generally Not Covered: The […]
Read more
What is Considered “Reasonable”? What happens when an employee with a disability needs an adjustment to perform their job effectively? This is where reasonable accommodations come in. However, the question often arises: what exactly is considered “reasonable” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Striking a Balance The key is to find a balance between […]
Read more
It’s time for an ADA refresher! The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a cornerstone of civil rights legislation, ensuring equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities. As an employer, understanding your obligations under the ADA is crucial. Here’s a breakdown of the key points: What qualifies as a disability? The ADA defines a person […]
Read more
Forced to listen? Imagine this: Your boss calls a mandatory meeting. Instead of discussing work tasks, they spend the time telling you why you should support a political candidate or a particular religious view. That’s a captive audience meeting, and it’s becoming a hot-button issue. A captive audience meeting is a mandatory work meeting where […]
Read more
At some point during the election cycle, you may encounter employees wanting to display political propaganda at work.  This can range from flags and posters to social media posts and even conversations, and it can create a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere for colleagues with differing viewpoints. So, how do you maintain a respectful workplace while […]
Read more
As a presidential election year unfolds, employers must navigate the complex landscape of voting leave laws to uphold employees’ rights while ensuring compliance with state regulations. While federal law does not mandate time off to vote, many states have enacted specific provisions. Here’s what employers need to know to navigate this terrain effectively. Understanding State […]
Read more
An Employer’s Guide to Politics in the Workplace The current political climate can be divisive, and tension can easily spill over into the workplace. When employees hold vastly different political views, it can lead to arguments, hurt feelings, and a fractured work environment. So, what’s an employer’s responsibility when it comes to politics in the […]
Read more
An OSHA inspection can feel daunting, but understanding the process can empower you to get through it smoothly. This guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to ensure a collaborative and efficient experience for everyone involved. When might you encounter an OSHA inspector?  Imagine a concerned employee reports a potential safety hazard. Or […]
Read more
Unpacking the Buzzword You’ve likely heard the term “quiet quitting,” conjuring images of disengaged workers coasting through their jobs. But before we jump on the bandwagon of criticism, let’s take a closer look at what this phenomenon actually means. At its core, quiet quitting describes employees fulfilling their job requirements without going the extra mile. […]
Read more
A No-Nonsense Guide for Business Leaders The work landscape is shifting, and your business might be left behind if you’re still operating with a traditional mindset. Deloitte’s 2023 Global Human Capital Trends report offers valuable insights for navigating this changing terrain. Here are the key takeaways you need to know about the future of your […]
Read more
In today’s evolving work environment, employee engagement and productivity have become critical priorities for businesses. McKinsey’s research sheds light on this topic by identifying six distinct employee personas, each exhibiting varying levels of satisfaction, engagement, and performance. But the most striking revelation? Over half the workforce falls into two stark categories: building value or destroying […]
Read more
How to handle insurance during leave of absence Employee leaves of absence from work raise questions, especially about health benefits. Who shoulders the insurance premiums during the leave? Let’s untangle this knot one thread at a time. Paid Leave: Business as Usual Paid leaves are straightforward. Simply maintain regular benefit deductions from their paychecks as […]
Read more

Download Our App

Download the Nextep Mobile App in Apple iOS or Google Play