Q. Every summer, we hire youth lifeguards for our municipal pool. We hold training on Sunday evenings. A couple of applicants said they can’t attend that time for “religious reasons.” It’s not a conflict with a religious activity—only family time. If we deny them the job, are there any religious discrimination implications? We could pay for certification elsewhere if they can find a certification program.” — J.G., Virginia
A. First, let’s look at the law: Title VII requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees whose sincerely held religious beliefs or practices conflict with a work requirement, unless doing so would pose an “undue hardship” on the employer. An accommodation would pose an undue hardship if it would cause more than de minimis cost on the business. (Relevant factors include the type of workplace, cost of the accommodation and number of employees who will need the accommodation.)
I question whether “family time” qualifies as a “sincerely held religious belief.” If it does, paying for certification elsewhere may impose an undue hardship. In other words, while there is no clear answer to this, there is a legal leg to stand on if you don’t hire these lifeguards.
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