Your obligation to accommodate religion begins when employee requests it

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Are you aware that some of your employees are religious? Do you worry about having to adjust your schedule so they don’t have to work on worship days? That’s smart, but you shouldn’t spend too much time overanalyzing the situation.

If employees don’t ask for religious accommodations, then there’s no need to worry about special schedules. That’s because your obligation to accommodate religious needs begins when an employee asks for accommodation.

If he never requests a schedule change, you don’t need to do anything. If he accepts a schedule that interferes with his religious practices and merely grumbles about it, that’s not grounds for a lawsuit either.

Recent case: Anthony, who is black, worked for a decade as the manager of a grocery store until he was discharged.

He decided to sue, alleging among other claims that he had been discriminated against because of his religion.

His evidence? That a supervisor once told him not to quote Scripture or discuss religion with employees or customers. He also said he was often scheduled to work Sundays, which interfered with his church activities.

The court tossed out the claim because Anthony had never asked for any sort of religious accommodation. He merely accepted his Sunday schedule and groused about it. That’s not enough to trigger an employer’s accommodation obligations. (Hammonds v. Bo’s Food Store, No. 7:13-CV-00066, ED NC, 2013)

Bottom line: Unless they tell you otherwise, assume that everyone can work the hours you assign.

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