The EEOC's Focus On Religious Accommodations

by Fisher Phillips
Contact

(Dealership Update, No. 1, February 2014)

Religious accommodation claims are on the EEOC’s radar screen. This means that offering religious accommodations to employees and applicants must be on your radar screen as well.

Most dealerships know that they cannot discriminate against employees and applicants based on their religion. But employers are also required to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee’s or applicant’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of your business. Common religious accommodations that dealerships should consider include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.

The number of religious discrimination lawsuits filed by the EEOC is on the rise, particularly among dealerships. To provide context of the types of issues currently being addressed by the EEOC, here are a few examples.

Dress Code Policies

The EEOC recently brought claims against a New Jersey-based dealership that prohibited applicants and employees from wearing beards. When a member of the Sikh faith applied for a position as a new salesperson, the dealership asked him to shave his beard. The applicant refused, stating that his religious beliefs required him to wear a beard, uncut hair, and a turban. The dealership did not hire him.   

The EEOC filed suit against the dealership, alleging that it discriminated against the applicant on the basis of his religion and by failing to consider possible religious accommodations to its “no beard” policy.

In November 2013, the dealership agreed to pay $50,000 and amend its dress-code policy to settle the EEOC’s religious-discrimination claim. As part of the agreement, the dealership was also required to implement written policies providing for reasonable accommodation based on religion, including dress-code provisions; state the methods for requesting religious accommodations; and grant reasonable religious accommodations that eliminate conflict between an employee’s religious beliefs and the company’s other policies, unless the accommodation presents an undue burden to the dealership.

Observing The Sabbath

The EEOC also settled a religious-accommodation lawsuit in September 2013, in which a California dealership was accused of discriminating against a salesperson based on his religion, Seventh-Day Adventist. A key tenet of the salesperson’s faith is to observe Sabbath by refraining from secular work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. The EEOC alleged that, despite numerous requests by the salesperson explaining his religion, the dealership persistently scheduled him to work shifts during his Sabbath and ultimately disciplined and discharged him for taking leave to observe his Sabbath. According to the EEOC, the dealership failed to accommodate the salesperson’s religious practices.

In order to settle litigation initiated by the EEOC in a California federal court, the dealership agreed to pay $158,000 and to revise its personnel policy concerning religious accommodations. Specifically, the dealership agreed to clarify its policies regarding its obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious beliefs and practices; to make clear in its policies that supervisors must immediately inform Human Resources when they are aware of a need for a religious accommodation; and take all reasonable steps to provide an accommodation.

As these cases demonstrate, a “one size fits all” policy may be problematic when it conflicts with your employees’ religious beliefs. Although you have the right to enforce policies and procedures relating to an employee’s physical appearance while at work and scheduling of employee’s shifts and work days, you should consider whether your policies and practices provide a method for addressing the religious practices of your employees if or when those practices violate your existing policies.

Given the EEOC’s increased focus on religious accommodation claims, you may want to consider whether and what accommodations can be offered to employees to resolve conflict between your policies and your employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Fisher Phillips | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Fisher Phillips
Contact
more
less

Fisher Phillips on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.