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Worker gets extra breaks for prayer, but co-workers complain: What to do

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

PROBLEM: A Muslim employee needs an accommodation that will allow him to pray several times during the workday. You determine that allowing him to do so won’t affect the department’s productivity. Not so fast. The rest of the staff starts to complain that it’s not fair that one employee gets extra breaks in the day. Their morale has taken a hit. Rescinding the accommodation is:

A. A good idea, because many unhappy employees is an undue hardship that employers do not have to tolerate. You have to take into consideration the morale of the rest of the employees versus the needs of one employee.

B. A bad idea, without a more compelling reason. Employers may not depend on other staff members to agree to an accommodation before providing it to the requesting employee.

Answer: The correct answer is B. The general disgruntlement, resentment or jealousy of co-workers does not create an undue hardship that calls for you to not provide a religious accommodation (or to rescind it). An accommodation would have to impact co-workers’ ability to perform their duties, or subject co-workers to a hostile environment in order to be considered unreasonable. Undue hardship requires more than proof that some co-workers complained; it requires evidence that the accommodation would actually infringe on their rights or disrupt their work.

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