Where your religious-accommodation responsibilities stop

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Issue: How far must you go to oblige an employee's religious practices under federal job-discrimination law?

Benefit: A new ruling says that you don't need to accommodate religious requests when the employee volunteers to work overtime hours.

Action: Urge supervisors to notify you if employees make religious-based requests.

Federal job-discrimination law says you're required, within reason, to accommodate employees when their religious practices conflict with their job requirements. But what if an employee asks you to extend that accommodation to when he or she volunteers to work overtime? Must you grant that accommodation? In effect, allow the employee to dictate when he or she will work overtime?

No. A new court ruling indicates that your only requirement is to offer religious accommodations that apply to mandatory work times, not voluntary overtime situations.

Recent case: Greg Fox told his employer that his religious beliefs prevented him from working between sundown on Saturdays and sundown on Sundays. After Fox filed an EEOC charge, the employer agreed to adjust his hours accordingly on weekends when the employer required employees to work overtime hours.

That accommodation worked until Fox requested that the employer make the same adjustment to his hours on weekends when overtime work was voluntary, not mandatory.

The employer refused, and Fox sued, alleging religious discrimination. He lost his case. Reason: The employer wasn't forcing Fox to choose between his religious convictions and the job's requirements. (Fox v. Lear Corp., No. 1:03-cv-00599-TAB-DFH, S.D.Ind., 2004)

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