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Must we accommodate ‘alternative’ religions?

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. We gave three Muslim employees a prayer area and time off to pray. This seems to have given others ideas. We had two religious accommodation requests for time off and dress code modifications. But I’ve never heard of their “religion.” Can I ask more about it? — B.D., Connecticut

A. Employers must offer reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious practices “unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s operations.” Accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions, job reassignments, lateral transfers and modification of grooming requirements.

The EEOC makes clear that “the law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions … but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.”

To determine what accommodations are appropriate, you are permitted to ask questions about how the beliefs conflict with the employee’s job responsibilities. Employees are responsible for supporting their requests with information regarding their bona fide religious beliefs and practices.

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