Posted by Tamara
The phrases “reasonable accommodations” and “sincerely held religious beliefs” are two that Arizona employees would be well-advised to know and understand.
That is because the federal government requires that employers must make “reasonable accommodations” to workers’ “sincerely held religious beliefs” in the workplace.
Typical “reasonable accommodations” may include exceptions to the dress code, scheduling, uniforms, and hours, among other things. If management does not make these kinds of accommodations, then it faces sanctions in court that could include hefty monetary awards to employees.
Without what is judged as a “sincerely held” belief, however, an employee is unlikely to receive the support of the court system. If a worker pretends to be Jewish in October and Christian in December simply to get added time off, a court would be very unlikely to back that employee. If the employee does not follow the tenets of the stated religion or religions, does not attend services, or does not participate in the activities of the religion in some way, a court will almost assuredly not uphold his or her claim of religious discrimination.
The applicable statute is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII makes it illegal to discriminate in the workplace based not only on religion but on race, color, national origin, and gender. Relevant areas of the workplace are discipline, hiring, firing, promotion, salary, and benefits.
In particular, there have been a number of court cases involving religious discrimination in the workplace since 9/11.
In one example, a Muslim woman working for Alamo car rental was fired for wearing her head scarf on the job. She challenged her firing and the court awarded her more than $250,000, declaring that allowing her to wear the scarf would have been a “reasonable accommodation.” She argued that before 9/11 she had worn the scarf with her supervisor’s permission.
In another case, two Muslim employees of a Pennsylvania county government were disciplined for refusing to shave their beards. The county’s dress code declared that its employees must be clean-shaven. A judge ruled that allowing for their beards would have been a “reasonable accommodation.”
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