Faith-Based EEOC Claims Have a Prayer
Religious-Discrimination Complaints Rose by 75% Last Decade
In 2008 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a compliance manual on discrimination on the basis of religion in response to an increasing number of claims filed on that basis. That trend has continued unabated, with the agency reporting a 75% rise in religious-discrimination complaints from 2000 to 2009.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that employers provide reasonable accommodation for the sincere religious practices and beliefs of employees or applicants unless it would cause employers an undue hardship. At the time of Title VII’s passage, “religious diversity” was primarily a matter of three persuasions: Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. In the decades since, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and many lesser-known religions have become far more common in the U.S. workforce, increasing the variety of employers’ accommodation duties.
The following are just some examples of religious-based claims that the EEOC settled or filed within the last year:
- An employer who denied a Muslim employee annual leave to make a pilgrimage to Mecca agreed to pay a $70,000 settlement;
- A security company that fired one of its guards, rather than allowing her to wear a headscarf in observance of her Mennonite faith, settled for $49,556;
- A trucking company that fired a Rastafarian driver for refusing on religious grounds to cut his hair and shave his beard in compliance with the company's grooming policy settled for $46,000;
- The EEOC sued a retailer that refused to accommodate a Baptist employee’s request to take Sundays off; and
- The EEOC sued an ambulance service that fired a Jehovah’s Witness employee for refusing to participate in a Halloween event on religious grounds.
To avoid becoming another EEOC statistic, employers should review their policies to ensure they have the sufficient flexibility to allow for religious accommodation. In addition, employers should offer employees training on anti-discrimination and workplace diversity that include religious-accommodation requirements.Categories: Discrimination & Harassment Compliance
Tags: Preventing Discrimination and Harassment