Religious Accommodations at Work: What Does Your Employer Have to Do?
If you are an employee at work, it is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you for your religious beliefs. But in most cases, employers don’t just blatantly discriminate against people for their religion. What they are more likely to do, is to refuse to provide employees the religious accommodations employees ask for. Accommodations that may be required, to properly observe and practice a given religion.
What Employers Must Do
Under California law, an employer must find alternative means for you to do your job, in order to help accommodate your religious practices or beliefs. You also must be provided the possibility of being excused from doing things in the workplace that may violate your religious beliefs.
Employers must allow you to wear clothing or allow you to do your hair or wear headpieces, in accordance with your religion. You cannot be segregated from contact with the public, because of your accommodation—for example, it is illegal to put you in a job where (or to modify your job duties so) you have no customer contact, because your employer is afraid of how customers or clients may react to your religious dress, headpiece or hairstyle.
If schedule changes or work hours need to be modified to accommodate your religion, these must be altered as well.
Even things that aren’t religious, but are related to your religion, may need to be accommodated. For example, if there was a religious convention, and you wanted to go, your employer may have to make accommodations for you, to allow you to attend.
Hardships and Refusing Accommodations
There are times when an employer can refuse you a religious accommodation. If your accommodation causes an undue hardship to your employer, your employer need not accommodate you.
However, this is where federal religious accommodation and discrimination law, and California law, differ.
Under federal law, so long as an employer would sustain even slight or minimal hardship, your accommodation can be denied. But under California’s law, which is much more protective of employees, the employer has to show that it would cause significant hardship, difficulty or expense, before the employer can deny you the religious accommodation that you are asking for.
California law is also stronger than federal law, in that if there is a conflict between job duties and religion, and an accommodation can be made, the accommodation must entirely eliminate the conflict. Under federal law, an employer can try to accommodate an employee, or accommodate them part way, and that may be sufficient.
Days off for religious observance may pose a problem, depending on the job or industry. Some jobs or professions or industries are absolutely necessary on holidays. This is determined on a case by case basis. Additionally if providing a religious accommodation would cause the employer to break another law, the employer need not make that accommodation.
Contact the San Jose employment lawyers at the Costanzo Law Firm today if you feel you are a victim of religious discrimination in the workplace.