Under federal law, an employer usually cannot make work-related decisions based upon an employee’s religion. This means, that generally an employer has to give their workers time off from work to practice their faith and celebrate religious holidays. Employers may face legal issues and be fined if they refuse time off without a good reason. Time off cannot be denied just because the employer doesn’t believe in the holiday or religion but needs a legitimate business reason in the eyes of the law.
With respect to our dilemma, our employee John’s refusal to carry out his assigned job because of a new religious belief is a very interesting situation. Since it is possible for an employer to limit the time off even in these types of situations. This is defined as a “reasonable religious accommodation. ” (EEOC, 2012, landing page). A religious accommodation is any work-related adjustment that will allow an employee time off to practice religion. (EEOC, 2012, landing page).
There are several options for employers to work with an employee requesting time off for religious beliefs and traditions, this includes providing flex time work schedules, allowing workers to switch vacation days, unpaid leave, and working with the employees work schedules to allow off on those specific days. An option to the employer to reduce or prevent an employee from taking off for religious practices are an employer can also claim an undue hardship rule. (EEOC, 2012, landing page). This is defined as an “employer can disallow time off to an employee for religious reason if it may be anything that has a negative impact on the business. (Anti- Defamation League, 2012, landing page). For our example, giving John the religious accommodation to not deliver to our east side customers on the days of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday would cause our customers harm to their business as they depend on these deliveries would result in undue hardship for me, John’s employer. Letting John time off could lower efficiency and productivity, possibly even make the workplace unsafe, and cost the business more than just administrative costs.
Thus, by refusing John time off or actually firing him because of his religion he may be able to get his job back and get paid for the time he was out of work under Title VII. Additionally, most states have laws very similar to Title VII, which could lead to even more fines. Our example about John, is a tricky situation, because John had an employment contract with my business to make deliveries on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to the east side before he became devoutly religious and joined this highly respected religious group.
He now claims that it is against the religious freedom to maintain this delivery schedule under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and will not deliver to the east side on those days. (EEOC, 2012, landing page). The major dilemma for me as his employer is that this may cause undue hardship for my business because the deliveries are to customers on the east side whom depend on it and it would result in loss of business and maybe even loss of customer base.
The trickle down of this could lead to a word of mouth spreading that could lead to a disaster for my business. As an employer it is important to be very careful as to not violate John’s freedom of religion rights under the Title VII and still makes sure the packages are delivered as scheduled to the customers. Discussion The U. S. Congress enacted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Miller & Jentz, 2010, p. 481). The law generally forbids religious discrimination except fewer than two conditions: “The employers to consider religion when making employment decisions where (1) religion is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the employer’s business or (2) the employer is a church, church-owned school, or a school whose curriculum propagates a particular religion. ” (Anti-Defamation League, 2012, landing page).
Title VII did not quite say that it is required of an employer to accommodate an employee’s religious needs which has led to a seesaw battle between employers and employees to what extent the law requires employers to change work schedules or work conditions for religious employees. This has resulted in numerous complaints with the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on whether Title VII’s non-discrimination mandate prohibited employers from firing employees who for religious reasons refused to work uring regularly scheduled work weeks or hours. So, in our example, it is clear on one thing that Federal law prohibits most employers and unions from discriminating against their employees on the basis of religion if I have more than 15 employees in each work day for twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. (EEOC, 2012, landing page). Employees with devout religious beliefs and practices, such as John, often face extreme conflicts between their employment obligations and their religious obligations.
John refuses to deliver to the East side on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for religious reasons. He is protected under federal law and many state and local laws under the accommodation rule for those obligations. My only defense as his employer, is that under the Title VII, I must try to reasonably accommodate his religious beliefs and practices unless doing so would cause “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business. ” (Miller & Jentz, 2010, p. 481). Thus, if it will cause my business undue hardship, I can disallow John’s request.
Since it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his religion. (EEOC, 2012, landing page). First, the definition of religion is a “commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance. ” (Merriam- Webster, 2012, landing page). Thus, the term with respect to the law includes all points of religious observances, practices, and beliefs.
Since John is one of the top delivery employees for my company and as my employee is bound by duty under contract to deliver parcel packages to the east side of town on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This is the first point of contention. A written employment contract is a binding document between me, as employer, and John, as employee, that establishes the terms of our relationship. In this case, it is to deliver parcels on said days on the east side. (NOLO, 2012, landing page).
Thus, our contract signed by both sides and notarized by an attorney spells out the specifics of our employer- employee duties. The contract specifies standards for the employee’s performance and grounds for termination, which John has breached by not performing up to my standards. Thus, per the contract details, I have grounds to terminate. Second point of contention, John, who was never a religious person before and has worked for me for years and has been a loyal employee, suddenly becomes devoutly eligious and joins a highly respected religious group. I will take the liberty to embellish this example of John by adding that this religious group, has Evangelical ties and is very conservative. They have powerful allies in the Republican party including the Governor. The East Side is the warehouse district and is very good for commerce but at night is very seedy. I do not wish to upset the Evangelicals or the Governor because I am currently in the process of getting State government contracts as well.
Since John notified me suddenly that it is against his religion to deliver packages on the east side of town on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and therefore would be unable to do so and states that his religious objection is protected under Title VII, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 it causes a serious dilemma because I do not want to terminate him but what choice do I have because I cannot afford another driver and firing him on the grounds that it violates his religious beliefs could lead to bad publicity, heavy fines, and even loss of business in the backlash that could ensue.
The problem is that it would cause an undue hardship for my company and I could risk losing some very valuable accounts. As the company owner, the actions that I take to be sure that I am compliant under Title VII and still maintain my business by ensuring that the packages are delivered on the side of town on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday need to be carefully calculated. Yes, under Title VII, an employer is required to accommodate an employee’s held religious belief and my only defense is to prove that the accommodation would result in an undue hardship to my business.
The three aspects of a Title VII claim involve the employee’s sincerely held religious belief, the employer’s accommodation of that belief, and the employer’s defense that it cannot accommodate the belief because the accommodation would result in an undue hardship. (Anti- Defamation League, 2012, landing page). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines religious practice to include “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views. (EEOC, 2012, landing page). So, John’s claim is a religious belief and is thus covered by the law. John also had a contract, also covered by the law. My business will suffer undue hardship if John does not deliver that to is covered by the law. Since Title VII protects individual religious practices even though the practice is not mandated by the religious institution to which the employee belongs. By law, the employee should also let the employer know of this sincerely held religious belief, which John did do.
For the example, as the employer I required the employee to work on the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and John has a sincerely held religious belief to attend church and worship with fellow believers on those days, and then he needed to advise the me as the employer of this belief. The law states that the employee should state the belief not only verbally but in writing, and refer to any biblical or religious-based references that form the basis of this belief. (EEOC, 2012, landing page). John should also let me know as to why this belief conflicts with his job.
He cannot claim religious discrimination if I am unaware of the belief being violated. John performed all of these points. (EEOC, 2012, landing page). Thus, the burden switches to me as the employer to accommodate that belief, and since John advised me as the employer of this sincerely held religious belief, I must comply. With respect to duty, the employee should suggest accommodation alternatives. In our example of working on the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday noted above, John can offer to work on an alternative days or suggest other employees who may work these days or driving shift.
As the employer, I must undertake efforts to accommodate the employee’s religious belief and I should not implement a zero tolerance policy against accommodating religious practices and take seriously my obligation to accommodate the belief. Since I was informed adequately of John’s sincerely held religious belief, I am required to accommodate the belief unless to do so would be an undue hardship on the employer’s business. (EEOC, 2012, landing page). In my opinion, this is not an undue hardship because according to the law, a company is only bound by this if it has more than 15 employees.
It seems to be more of just a mere inconvenience. Since I have at least 15 employees, I am sure I can find another driver on staff and adequately train this employee to make the deliveries. Since I cannot claim that employee morale, as a result of the accommodation, is itself undue hardship or minimal expense is not undue hardship, which is what training another driver would be. Also, undue hardship is determined on a case by case basis and as the employer I must undertake serious attempts to accommodate the employee’s belief.
A reasonable accommodation is one that eliminates the employee’s conflict between his religious practices and work requirements and that does not cause undue hardship for the employer. I do have other options of possible accommodations which will include shift swaps between employees by training the second driver, voluntary assignment substitutions, flexible scheduling, lateral transfers to other positions in the company, and use of lunch time in exchange for early departure.
I could also allow John as an employee to work longer hours on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday to enable him to not work on those stated days and check with my suppliers if we can deliver on Tuesday and Thursday. I also could require John to use his paid time off, like personal or vacation days, to meet his required accommodation. Since I cannot just refuse to accommodate John; I can try in good faith to resolve the conflict between his religious needs and job requirements; and if I cannot accommodate, than I will strive to identify an actual monetary or administrative expense.
As with the scheduling of work, as the employer I must attempt to accommodate the religious needs of John and in return he cannot be unreasonable in demanding accommodation. Also, the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that this means that an employer need not incur more than minimal costs in order to accommodate an employee’s religious practices. As an employer I also realize that in addition to the legal requirement to accommodate religious employees; a commitment to religious accommodation might improve employee morale and help retain valued employees who are religious.
Since John was seeking to observe his religious beliefs, he too has a responsibility to do his part to help resolve the conflict between job duties and religious needs. The law’s intention is to provide protection and accommodation for a wide spectrum of religious practices and not just those beliefs based upon organized or recognized religions. Therefore, religious beliefs need not be widely accepted or even understandable to others. In summary, the law was created to include people of all different religions, the fact is that the law was created to include all types of religious groups and to not exclude any.
However, it is equally clear that Title VII was intended only to protect and accommodate individuals with sincere religious beliefs and not those with political or other beliefs unrelated to religion. When it comes to religious apparel, typically only safety concerns constitute undue hardship. Questions concerning an applicant’s religion or the religious holidays observed by an applicant not permitted by the law. This issue is also likely to arise in the context of workplace diversity that include the acceptance of gay, lesbians and unwed mothers that some religious people claim to find offensive on the basis of religion.
To avoid liability, an employer will need to show that they are flexible and offered a reasonable accommodation in good faith even concerning undue hardship. Conclusion The facts are that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of l964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment. This covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. Employers may not treat employees or applicants more or less favorably because of their religious observances.
As for our example, an employer may not force employees to participate or not participate in a religious activity as a condition of employment. Thus, as his employer, I must reasonably try to accommodate John’s religious beliefs without causing my business undue hardship. As discussed earlier, a reasonable religious accommodation is any alteration to the work schedule that will allow my employee, John to observe his religion. My options for him are flexible scheduling, voluntary job substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, transfer, and workplace modification.
As an employer I am not required to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and practices if doing so would impose an undue hardship on my legitimate business interests and to prove this I would need to show that accommodating John’s religious practices requires more than ordinary administrative costs, lowers efficiency in other job tasks, infringes upon the other employees’ job rights or benefits, reduces workplace safety, and possibly causes co-workers to carry the accommodated employee’s share of potentially hazardous work.
I do believe wholeheartedly that the United States is a place where respect for the faith of people is paramount and that faith can lead to truth. We are free and all people are given the inalienable right to his or her own truth. At the end of the day, we are free to choose our own destiny and right to religion is one of those important freedoms. As an employee, one must not take advantage of this freedom and needs to respect the employer whom pays them a fair wage to do a job.
Using the right to freedom of religion to miss work or cause problems for ones employers just to do so morally and ethically wrong and it hurts the others whom genuinely need to miss work as part of their religious practices and holidays. Thus, the challenge is before us to take action to ensure that our materialistic society continues to maintain the ideal of religious tolerance and freedom stated in the constitution and tested, successfully, through the generations as a model for all democracies. (Halbert, & Inguilli, 2010, p. 135).