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Religious Discrimination in Arizona

Posted by Tamara

As long as it can be done without “undue hardship,” employers in Arizona and elsewhere in the U.S. must allow for the free expression of an employee’s religion.

This means, among other things, that employers are required by federal law to allow Muslim employees to take prayer breaks.

According to the federal law, however, employers need only accommodate a worker’s “sincerely held” beliefs. This avoids situations in which employees take advantage of the law to gain extra time off. For example, a worker who pretended to be Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, depending on the holiday on which he or she wanted to take time off would not be exercising a “sincerely held” belief.

Evidence of a sincere belief may be attending services at least occasionally, or participating in their stated religion in some other way.

Employers are required by federal law to make “reasonable accommodations” for sincerely held beliefs, provided that the accommodations do not create an “undue hardship.”

Simply allowing a worker to take a prayer break to exercise the requirements of his or her Islamic beliefs would not constitute a hardship. If the worker were the sole employee capable of doing a certain task, and prayer breaks required the management to hire an additional employee, that could be labeled a hardship. Such scenarios are highly unlikely, however.

It would be a “reasonable accommodation” if an employer provided loose-fitting long pants rather than short skirts for women flight attendants who were Muslim. Outfitting them with $50,000 designer uniforms would not be reasonable.

Employers should keep in mind that workplaces already usually provide two 10- or 15-minute breaks daily, and management generally is not concerned with how that break time is taken. A Christian employee may take the time to read the Bible while an atheist may be reading a work by Richard Dawkins. Another worker may simply be enjoying a coffee and doughnut.

Smokers, meanwhile, may be taking frequent cigarette breaks throughout the course of the day. The time these employees take in order to maintain their nicotine habit may far exceed any time involved in daily prayer breaks – but that is a different topic.


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