Q. We have an employee who claims to be a witch. She contends that witchcraft is her religion and has asked for time off on certain “holidays.” Are we required to accommodate this employee’s request?
A. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their religion. Further, employers are required to accommodate any bona fide religious beliefs that conflict with an employer’s policy or practice, unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship.
Unfortunately for employers, the EEOC has taken the position that an employee’s beliefs, although not traditionally religious, may be protected under Title VII if they are held “with the strength of traditional religious views.”
The federal agency reached that conclusion in a California case involving a bus driver who was fired for refusing to distribute to his passengers coupons for free hamburgers at a local fast-food restaurant. The driver contended that eating meat conflicts with his vegetarian beliefs. The EEOC equated the bus driver’s vegetarianism to a religious belief and concluded that the employer had engaged in illegal conduct by firing him.
Based on this finding, the EEOC may conclude that you have an obligation to accommodate an employee who believes in witchcraft “with the strength of traditional religious views.”
Thus, you may choose to provide this employee with certain accommodations—such as granting time off to attend a ritual—to avoid possible litigation.