Q. When, if ever, can our company legally ask an applicant about his or her religious affiliation?
A. In general, employers should avoid questions about an applicant’s religious affiliation or beliefs because such questions usually are not job-related. Title VII permits employers that are not religious organizations to hire and employ employees on the basis of religion only if religion is “a bona fide occupational qualification [BFOQ] reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise.”
Questions about religious affiliation might therefore be appropriate if religion is a BFOQ. They might also be appropriate if an employee asks for an accommodation of his or her religious beliefs. In that event, you can ask the employee to explain the religious nature of the belief or practice at issue and the way in which it conflicts with a work requirement.