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A Guide to Supporting Religious Accommodation in the Workplace

August 16, 2022

A Guide to Supporting Religious Accommodation in the Workplace 1200 629 Shegerian Law

An important factor to an organization’s success is creating a workplace that allows employees to work harmoniously. While a cordial workplace where everyone understands each other is ideal, misunderstandings and conflict among individuals with different experiences and world views are sometimes unavoidable.

One of the primary sources of conflict among employees is religion. People may see things differently depending on their religious doctrines, and such differences can quickly escalate to aggressive behavior and religion-based harassment.

To avoid getting a call from a religious discrimination lawyer, it’s in your company’s best interests to practice religious accommodation in the workplace. Creating an environment where people don’t feel discriminated against for their beliefs is critical in building a united workplace.

This infographic will illustrate the ins and outs of religious inclusion. We will also detail steps your company can adapt to ensure everyone’s religions are respected within the workplace. We hope that this article will help you iron out any religion-based discord that needs to be addressed.


Infographic guide to supporting religious accommodation in the workplace


Defining Religious Accommodation

Religious accommodation can take on many forms, but this can be identified as a set of decisions taken by a company’s upper management to support their employees’ religious beliefs and curb the prevalence of targeted abuse towards other people because of their religion.

Religious accommodation is critical to your company’s success because it is mandated by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This section of the landmark legislation requires employers to provide a safe workplace environment where employees are free from any form of discrimination. Without this act, talented employees of various genders, religions, and races may fall victim to harassment.

Who is entitled to religious accommodations?

Individuals who practice traditional religious beliefs are covered by these accommodations. Roman Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and other major religious affiliations are protected by this piece of legislation.

However, these privileges aren’t only limited to organized religions that have been around for hundreds of years. These protections are also extended to people with sincere beliefs that don’t fall under any umbrella of traditional religion as long as they do not cause unjust or undue hardship.


Unjust or Undue Hardship

While these accommodations are expected of American companies, it’s not something that you can expect every working environment to have. Companies can refrain from making changes if they feel like they would cause undue hardship.

Businesses can reject these changes under the grounds of unjust or undue hardship if their implementation adversely affects the company’s performance. If these changes cost too much money, affect workplace efficiency, and lessen workplace safety, it is acceptable not to provide these accommodations.

It’s not surprising if some companies fight tooth and nail to prove that these accommodations can cause disruptions in your workplace, so it’s crucial to know which ones can affect your office’s performance as a whole.


Common Religious Accommodations in the Workplace

Several religious accommodations can be offered to employees of various faiths. These policies can have various effects on the productivity of certain industries, but most competent workplaces have these firmly established.

Flexible schedules

Some religions will require their devotees to follow traditional practices at specific intervals. For example, Islam requires their followers to make time for prayer five times a day. While not all Muslims adhere to such strict rules, providing a flexible schedule allows them to perform salah. Other religions with time-sensitive practices will also benefit from such a policy.

Flexible work breaks

This complements the first accommodation so that it allows an employee to practice their faith at their own time. By letting them take their breaks whenever they wish, companies can provide the perfect opportunity to strengthen their faith.

Use of lunch breaks in exchange for early departures

This is another accommodation related to handling schedules. Since some religious practices require attendees to do them at specific times, allowing them to leave early by not taking their lunch breaks would be great for their faith.

Allowing employees to make up for lost time due to religious practices

Some practices can take hours to a day to complete, mainly if devotees have to attend or observe a significant religious event. Employers who allow them to make up for lost time will enable them to focus on their religious responsibilities without worrying about their work. 

Providing dress code exemptions for religious clothing items

Robbing a Jewish man of the opportunity to wear his skullcap or a Muslim woman of her hijab infringes their rights to express their religious beliefs. If their religion requires them to wear a specific article of clothing as part of their faith, your office has no right to prevent them from doing so except under special circumstances.

Allowing employees to rest on important religious days

Judaism and most Christian religions hold Sabbath as an important day of rest in reference to the book of Genesis. Other religions also have significant holy days that require employees to take a break. Your company should accommodate any important days by allowing them to observe these religious events.

Providing spaces in your facility for prayer

This may be difficult to execute in a large company with people practicing different religions, but having a space to pray is an excellent accommodation that companies can provide. An area in a small room can do, but repurposing a vacant room to serve the religious needs of your company’s employees can go a long way.

Allowing employees not to do work against their faith

If an employee’s Christian faith prevents them from allowing the manufacture and sale of birth control medication, it’s their right to ask not to do these tasks. If the tenets of their religion forbid them from performing specific tasks that your company engages in, you must learn to respect it.


Best Practices Companies Can Make in Providing Religious Accommodation

Implementing these changes can jar the organization’s status quo. If these accommodations are integrated poorly, it may worsen any existing religious divide in the workplace.

Your company’s management hierarchy must approach these accommodations with great care and planning if they want them to succeed. Here are some pointers that can help establish a harmonious workplace regardless of religious diversity.

Review policies, procedures, and requests for accommodations

Employers should make their people feel they care by processing employee requests for accommodations. See which can be integrated into your company and implement them properly. Ensure that the employees you’re trying to cater to are satisfied with the policies in place.

Establish a centralized accommodations system

One way to ensure that religious needs are being met is by establishing a central point of reference for your company’s accommodations. If you have an existing disability accommodation system in place, it will be easier to have one for religious accommodations. This ensures that everyone in the organization has a place to go if they want something implemented or changed.

Train all management staff regarding the accommodations’ legal matters

Your managers are the implementing arm of company policies, so they must know how to deal with the different religions in your office as you introduce specific accommodations. Equip them with the proper knowledge to better understand the accommodations you plan to roll out. There’s nothing worse than having a manager offend an employee for being tone-deaf to their religious beliefs and practices.

Create an inclusive work environment

Your managers aren’t the only people who should be responsible for promoting a harmonious workplace. Everyone in your company should be encouraged to discuss amongst themselves the various religious issues they feel should be addressed. A clear and open communication line between employees should help clear out any misunderstandings and foster a more inclusive place of work.

Be transparent in your accommodations

While employees will be ecstatic with any accommodations you can provide them, it will also be necessary to temper expectations. Company management should be clear about how much you would be willing to provide religious accommodations.

Employees will be more understanding of how they approach an accommodation if you clarify its limitations.

Offer options for accommodations that can’t be fulfilled

If the company doesn’t have enough space, tools, or resources to implement specific accommodations, you should be able to reach a compromise that would have everyone involved satisfied. 

These changes may be temporary, but they should be something that every party involved has agreed to. Meanwhile, the company should continue looking into more permanent accommodations to address your employees’ religious needs.


Have Your Faith Work with You

Nobody should feel stressed at work for not practicing their beliefs. While religion is a big part of many, it shouldn’t become a reason to cause unnecessary workplace issues. Religious accommodations are a great way to relieve tensions and promote a healthier work environment.

If the absence of religious accommodations presents some setbacks in the workplace, you can get in touch with capable religious discrimination lawyers to discuss your next steps. The legal experts at Shegerian & Associates are armed with a wealth of experience in such cases to help you find the best solution to your dilemma.

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