Business is booming, so you’re adding hours. That’s great news for everyone—except Joe, one of your top employees. He says he can’t work the company’s new mandated Saturday shift. His religion won’t allow it, he says, and he wants an accommodation.
How you listen and react when first approached about a religious accommodation sets the tone for a quick resolution. If you sit down with the employee and discuss the problem, there’s a good chance you can work something out. Before you act, ask yourself these questions:
- What are your organization’s required working hours?
- Why is it essential for that employee to work during times proscribed by his or her religion?
- Are there other qualified employees who would be willing to substitute during those periods? What additional costs would that require?
- Are there reasons other than cost compelling you to refuse to accommodate?
- How have you responded to other similar requests? (Courts will also look for consistency.)
- Has the employee offered a possible accommodation to produce a compromise?
Even if you can’t come up with an alternative, the employee will at least understand you tried to reach an accommodation. Often, that alone is enough to convince him not to sue, or persuade a court of your good faith if he does.
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