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Your ‘good faith’ goes a long way toward fair religious accommodations

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

As the workforce grows more diverse, so do the religious practices that employers may be asked to accommodate.

Some religions require Sundays off, while practitioners of other faiths might have a different Sabbath day, such as Friday or Saturday. Still other religions require several daily prayer breaks.

It can be hard for employers to balance those conflicting needs and still get all the work done.

Consider a policy that clearly sets out how to request time off for religious practices, and establish a mechanism for deciding who gets priority. It may not be possible for everyone to get their desired time off, but as long as you don’t discriminate against a particular religion, reasonable limits are likely to stand up in court.

Recent case: Diane Miller wanted Good Friday off and didn’t show up for work that day. Her employer then reprimanded her for an unexcused absence.

She fired off an angry letter to her supervisors in which she alleged religious discrimination—and apparently offered her boss a bribe in hopes she wouldn’t be docked for failing to show up. She was terminated for the letter.

Miller sued, alleging interference with her right to practice her religion.

The court said nothing of the sort had happened. Merely being reprimanded for not showing up wasn’t interference with the right to practice her religion. Plus, she was fired for an independent reason—offering a bribe. (Miller v. Weinstein, No. 08-4246, 3rd Cir., 2009)

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