Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion.
In addition to a basic prohibition against discriminatory hiring practices, employers are also required to make reasonable accommodations for their employees’ religious practices unless doing so would place an undue burden on the employer’s business.
This does not mean that an employer must accommodate an employee’s every desire, even if they are religious in nature.
Here are some examples of practices which an employer must accommodate:
- The inability to work on the Sabbath
- The need for prayer breaks during working hours
- Religious-based dietary requirements
- Certain dress and grooming requirements
- Religious prohibition against medical examinations
This list is not complete, but it gives a general sense of the types of accommodations that have been found to be reasonable under federal law.
An employer does not need to accommodate an employee’s religious practices if doing so would impose an undue hardship. This generally means that making an accommodation would be very costly, or would burden other employees. Examples include:
- Violating a valid seniority rule
- Suffering significant costs in terms of time and efficiency
- Requiring other employees to work long or undesirable hours to fill in for an absent employee