Best Religious Discrimination Lawyer Answers: What is a reasonable accommodation for religious needs under Title VII? What is an undue hardship for an employer for a religious accommodation under Title VII? Can my boss give me a different religious accommodation than what I asked for?
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees are not only protected from religious discrimination but also can seek accommodations from their employers to allow them to comply with their sincerely held religious beliefs. A request for a religious accommodation in the workplace can take many forms and have been previously addressed by our top employment discrimination lawyers. (Best Law Read: Religious Discrimination: What Does Reasonable Accommodation Mean?; Do I Have To Take Off My Hijab At Work?; Can I Get Off Work As A Religious Accommodation?; Can My Job Force A Haircut Against My Religion?).
“A reasonable accommodation of an employee’s religion is one that eliminates the conflict between employment requirements and religious practices.” Anderson v. U.S.F. Logistics (IMC), Inc., 274 F.3d 470, 475 (7th Cir. 2001). In Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63, 74, 97 S.Ct. 2264, 2271, 53 L.Ed.2d 113 (1977), the United States Supreme Court held: “The intent and effect of this … was to make it an unlawful employment practice … for an employer not to make reasonable accommodations, short of undue hardship, for the religious practices of its employees and prospective employees.”
There are two legal ways for an employer to respond to a request for a religious accommodation or exemption in the workplace. First, the employer can provide a reasonable accommodation, even if it is not the same accommodation requested by the employee. In Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 107 S.Ct. 367, 372, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986), the United States Supreme Court held: “We find no basis in either the statute or its legislative history for requiring an employer to choose any particular reasonable accommodation. By its very terms[,] the statute directs that any reasonable accommodation by the employer is sufficient to meet its accommodation obligation.” If the court determines that “the employer has already reasonably accommodated the employee’s religious needs, the statutory inquiry is at an end. The employer need not further show that each of the employee’s alternative accommodations would result in an undue hardship.” The undue hardship can either be based on costs or other impacts on the business operations.
This brings us to the employer’s second option, which is to assert that all accommodations would cause it an undue hardship, which is not a high threshold for religious accommodations under Title VII. In Virts v. Consol. Freightways Corp. of Delaware, 285 F.3d 508, 516 (6th Cir. 2002), the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit explained this standard: “To require an employer to bear more than a de minimis cost in order to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs is an undue hardship.” Id. (citing Trans World Airlines, Inc. at 84).
As such, the biggest problem that employers have is when they reject the accommodation requests automatically without providing any other reasonable accommodations and without considering the costs or impact on the business. These rejections our of hand is usually what will result in a good claim of religious discrimination for the employee.
The recent conduct of Wellpath, LLC provides us with a good example of what employers should not do. Wellpath is a Tennessee-based provider of health services to correctional facilities. It offered a job to a nurse to work at the GEO Central Texas Correctional Facility near San Antonio, Texas. After the nurse accepted the position, she informed the employer of her sincerely held religious beliefs as a practicing Apostolic Pentecostal Christian that she could not wear scrub pants and instead requested to wear a scrub skirt, which she had done on her prior jobs, including in other correctional facilities. This is where things get bad for the employer. It rejected the accommodation; did not offer any alternative; failed to provide any explanation of an undue burden; and fired the nurse for making the request. Bad employer, bad, bad employer.
As a result of this conduct, the employer agreed to pay $75,000 to settle his claim. Obviously, this is much more expensive than letting an employee simply wear a skirt instead of pants to honor a sincerely held religious belief.
If your employer, boss, supervisor or even the owner of the company that you work at is discriminating, harassing, or not giving you a reasonable accommodation based on your religion or religious beliefs, you should contact the best employment discrimination lawyer near you. Certainly, if you have been wrongfully terminated based on your religion, whether that is Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu, Catholic, or any other religion, the best course of action you can take is to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, you will meet with one of our best religious discrimination lawyers, who will inform you about your legal rights are how to protect them. Call our top attorneys in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Youngstown, Cincinnati and Detroit.
The materials available at the top of this religious discrimination blog and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “Can I get a religious accommodation to my employer’s dress code”, “Can my employer deny my religious accommodation request?,” “Can my boss discriminate against me because I’m (Jewish/Muslim/Mormon/Hindu)?” or “I was fired for my religious beliefs.” The answer to “What can I do?”, is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular religious discrimination or other employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.