Religious Accommodation

Employment law loomed large on the Supreme Court’s docket this term. In seven highly anticipated cases, the Court interpreted federal employment statutes from Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to FLSA and ERISA.

While employers received favorable rulings in some cases, the Court’s decisions regarding religious discrimination and the accommodation of pregnant workers could impact employers’ current practices and policies. Employers should review hiring, accommodation, and other policies—even those that are facially neutral—to ensure compliance with the Court’s recent holdings.
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On March 6, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released new guidance for employers addressing an employer’s obligation under Title VII to provide reasonable religious garb and grooming accommodations to employees and applicants upon request.

The guidance reaffirms the EEOC’s position that employers are required to accommodate employee and applicant requests for reasonable religious accommodations related to their garb or grooming, where the employee’s religious belief is sincerely held and where granting the accommodation would not pose an undue hardship on the employer. This could include requests to wear items such as religious garments, articles or symbols, and may also include an employee’s refusal to wear certain clothing, such as pants or shorts. Requests related to religious grooming may relate to, among other things, religious shaving or hair length observances.
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