If there is no accommodation that would address the safety concerns, the accommodation would not be reasonable because it causes an undue hardship.In the context of accommodating religious beliefs and practices, undue hardship means the accommodation imposes an undue hardship on your organization’s legitimate business interests.The employer must be able to prove that any accommodation would require more than ordinary business costs, diminish efficiency in other jobs, impair workplace safety, infringe on the rights and benefits of other employees, cause other coworkers to carry the burden of the accommodated employee’s hazardous or burdensome work, or conflict with other laws or regulations.
Check with your legal counsel in the specific circumstance, but in most cases your accommodation to allow prayers that are required during the workday does not obligate you to open your facilities to all other religiously associated causes represented by your employees.
A religious belief or practice can sometimes come into conflict with safety requirements or regulations.
Barrie Gross is former Vice President and Senior Corporate Counsel (Employment Law) for an international Fortune 1000 company and is a regular contributor to All
She is the founder of Barrie Gross Consulting, a human resources training and consulting firm dedicated to assisting companies to manage and develop their human capital.
Under federal and most states’ laws, employers cannot ignore the religious needs of employees but must work with employees to try to accommodate them.
Employers are familiar with “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).And again, undue hardship is a familiar term from the Americans with Disabilities Act but it is applied differently in the context of religious issues. For example, an employee who is prohibited by religious practice from working on the Sabbath may be given an alternative schedule.And sometimes, voluntary shift switches between employees may solve the issue.Other times, the religious belief or practice may require an exception to a work rule or policy.For example, an employer may have a dress code policy that prohibits visible tattoos at work.“Reasonable accommodations” for religious issues is somewhat different under the discrimination laws.