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11th Commandment: If employee truly believes, thou shalt accommodate

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in HR Management,Human Resources

When an employee cites her religion as a reason she can’t abide by a company rule or requirement, it’s not up to the you to judge the validity of that belief. As long as it’s a sincerely held belief, employers have to look for a reasonable accommodation that meets the employee’s needs.

Recent case: Cynthia was a good worker, highly praised for many years for her work in a medical office. When the practice introduced new name badges all employees had to wear, Cynthia objected. Language on the back of the tags listed 10 work rules, calling them “Our Ten Commandments.”

Cynthia explained to her supervisors that she was a devout Catholic who regularly attended mass and read the Bible to guide her life. That guidance included abiding by the 10 Commandments as listed in the Book of Exodus. She said wearing a modified version around her neck was blasphemy. She was fired when she refused to wear the badge.

She sued, alleging failure to accommodate her religious beliefs.

Her former employer argued that the commandments on the tag weren’t religious and that other Catholics didn’t object.

The court said the case could proceed. It didn’t matter whether the employer thought the commandments were secular or how other Catholics interpreted blasphemy. What mattered was that Cynthia held a sincere belief that wearing the badge violated her religion. (Ambrose v. Gabay, et al., No. 12-5453, ED PA, 2013)

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