Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised)


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Since the evidence indicated that David could have been accommodated, without undue hardship, by wearing his hair in a ponytail or held up with a clip, the employer will be liable for denial of reasonable accommodation and discriminatory failure to hire. Management contends that the dress code is essential to the safe and efficient operation of the mill, and has evidence that it was imposed following several accidents in which skirts worn by employees were caught in the same type of mill machinery that Patricia operates.

Because the evidence establishes that wearing pants is truly necessary for safety reasons, the accommodation requested by Patricia poses an undue hardship. A proposed religious accommodation poses an undue hardship if it would deprive another employee of a job preference or other benefit guaranteed by a bona fide seniority system or collective bargaining agreement CBA. Susan, an employee of QRS Corp. If Susan can find qualified co-workers voluntarily willing to swap shifts to accommodate her sincerely held religious beliefs, the employer could be found liable for denial of reasonable accommodation if it refuses to permit the swap to occur.

The existence of the collectively bargained system for determining weekend shifts should not result in the denial of accommodation if a voluntary swap can be arranged by the employee without violating the system or otherwise posing an undue hardship. The result would be the same if QRS had a unilaterally imposed seniority system rather than a CBA pursuant to which weekend shifts are determined.

However, if other employees were unwilling to swap shifts or were otherwise harmed by not requiring Susan to work on the shift in question, or the employer would be subject to other operational costs that were more than de minimis by allowing Susan to swap shifts, then the employer can demonstrate undue hardship. If a religious practice actually conflicts with a legally mandated federal, state, or local security requirement, an employer need not accommodate the practice because doing so would create an undue hardship. If a security requirement has been unilaterally imposed by the employer and is not required by law or regulation, the employer will need to decide whether it would be an undue hardship to modify or eliminate the requirement to accommodate an employee who has a religious conflict.

Patrick is employed as a correctional officer at a state prison, and his brother William is employed as a grocery store manager. Both Patrick and William seek permission from their respective employers to wear a fez at work as an act of faith on a particular holy day as part of their religious expression.

Both employers deny the request, citing a uniformly applied workplace policy prohibiting employees from wearing any type of head covering. William will likely prevail because there is no indication it would pose an undue hardship for the grocery store to modify its policy with respect to his request. Harvinder, a baptized Sikh who works in a hospital, wears a small 4-inch , dull and sheathed kirpan miniature sword strapped and hidden underneath her clothing, as a symbol of her religious commitment to defend truth and moral values.

Harvinder explained to Bill that her faith requires her to wear a kirpan in order to comply with the Sikh Code of Conduct, and gave him literature explaining that the kirpan is a religious artifact, not a weapon. She also showed him the kirpan, allowing him to see that it was no sharper than butter knives found in the hospital cafeteria. Nevertheless, Bill told her that she would be terminated if she continued to wear the kirpan at work. Absent any evidence that allowing Harvinder to wear the kirpan would pose an undue hardship in the factual circumstances of this case, the hospital is liable for denial of accommodation.

Under Title VII, an employer or other covered entity may use a variety of methods to provide reasonable accommodations to its employees.

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An employer may be able to reasonably accommodate an employee by allowing flexible arrival and departure times, floating or optional holidays, flexible work breaks, use of lunch time in exchange for early departure, staggered work hours, and other means to enable an employee to make up time lost due to the observance of religious practices. Rashid, a janitor, tells his employer on his first day of work that he practices Islam and will need to pray at several prescribed times during the workday in order to adhere to his religious practice of praying at five specified times each day, for several minutes, with hand washing beforehand.

The employer objects because its written policy allows one fifteen-minute break in the middle of each morning and afternoon. Thus, Rashid is entitled to accommodation.

A large employer operating a fleet of buses had a policy of refusing to accept driver applications unless the applicant agreed that he or she was available to be scheduled to work any shift, seven days a week. This policy violates Title VII to the extent that it discriminates against applicants who refrain from work on certain days for religious reasons, by failing to allow for the provision of religious accommodation absent undue hardship. Although it would pose an undue hardship to require employees involuntarily to substitute for one another or swap shifts, the reasonable accommodation requirement can often be satisfied without undue hardship where a volunteer with substantially similar qualifications is available, either for a single absence or an extended period of time.

An employer may have to make an exception to its scheduling policies, procedures, or practices in order to grant religious accommodation. Of course, if allowing a swap or other accommodation would not provide the coverage the employer needs for its business operations or otherwise pose an undue hardship, the accommodation does not have to be granted.

Whether or not such accommodations pose an undue hardship will depend on factors such as the nature or importance of the duty at issue, the availability of others to perform the function, the availability of other positions, and the applicability of a CBA or seniority system. There were enough servers on duty at any given time to perform this singing without affecting service.

The manager refused any accommodation. If Kim files a Title VII charge alleging denial of religious accommodation, she will prevail because the restaurant could have accommodated her with little or no expense or disruption.

The Hidden Traps in Decision Making

Neil, a pharmacist, was hired by a large corporation that operates numerous large pharmacies at which more than one pharmacist is on duty during all hours of operation. Neil informed his employer that he refused on religious grounds to participate in distributing contraceptives or answering any customer inquiries about contraceptives. The employer reasonably accommodated Neil by offering to allow Neil to signal to a co-worker who would take over servicing any customer who telephoned, faxed, or came to the pharmacy regarding contraceptives.

In the above example, assume that instead of facilitating the assistance of such customers by a co-worker, Neil leaves on hold indefinitely those who call on the phone about a contraceptive rather than transferring their calls, and walks away from in-store customers who seek to fill a contraceptive prescription rather than signaling a co-worker. The employer may discipline or terminate Neil for not meeting legitimate expectations. The employee should be accommodated in his or her current position if doing so does not pose an undue hardship.

Moreover, if the pharmacist cannot be accommodated within his position, the employer cannot transfer the pharmacist to a position that entails less pay, responsibility, or opportunity for advancement unless a lateral transfer is unavailable or would otherwise pose an undue hardship.


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An electrical utility lineman requests accommodation of his Sabbath observance, but because the nature of his position requires being available to handle emergency problems at any time, there is no accommodation that would permit the lineman to remain in his position without posing an undue hardship. The employer can accommodate the lineman by offering a lateral transfer to another assignment at the same pay, if available. If, however, no job at the same pay is readily available, then the employer could satisfy its obligation to reasonably accommodate the lineman by offering to transfer him to a different job, even at lower pay, if one is available.

Religious dress may include clothes, head or face coverings, jewelry, or other items. Prakash, who works for CutX, a surgical instrument manufacturer, does not shave or trim his facial hair because of his Sikh religious observance. When he seeks a promotion to manage the division responsible for sterilizing the instruments, his employer tells him that, to work in that division, he must shave or trim his beard because otherwise his beard may contaminate the sterile field.

When Prakash explains that he cannot trim his beard for religious reasons, the employer offers to allow Prakash to wear two face masks instead of trimming his beard. Prakash thinks that wearing two masks is unreasonable and files a Title VII charge.

Some courts have concluded that it would pose an undue hardship if an employer was required to accommodate a religious dress or grooming practice that conflicts with the public image the employer wishes to convey to customers. Nasreen, a Muslim ticket agent for a commercial airline, wears a head scarf, or hijab, to work at the airport ticket counter. After September 11, , her manager objected, telling Nasreen that the customers might think she was sympathetic to terrorist hijackers. Nasreen explains to her manager that wearing the hijab is her religious practice and continues to wear it.

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Customer fears or prejudices do not amount to undue hardship, and the refusal to accommodate her and the termination, therefore, violate Title VII. In addition, denying Nasreen the position due to perceptions of customer preferences about religious attire would be disparate treatment based on religion in violation of Title VII, because it would be the same as refusing to hire Nasreen because she is a Muslim. There may be limited situations in which the need for uniformity of appearance is so important that modifying the dress code would pose an undue hardship.

If any employee needs to use a workplace facility as a reasonable accommodation, for example use of a quiet area for prayer during break time, the employer should accommodate the request under Title VII unless it would pose an undue hardship. If the employer allows employees to use the facilities at issue for non-religious activities not related to work, it may be difficult for the employer to demonstrate that allowing the facilities to be used in the same manner for religious activities is not a reasonable accommodation or poses an undue hardship.

The supervisor must grant this request if it would not pose an undue hardship. An undue hardship would exist, for example, if the only conference room is used for work meetings at that time. An employer has an obligation to accommodate an employee or prospective employee when scheduling a test or administering other selection procedures, where the applicant has informed the employer of a sincerely held religious belief that conflicts with a pre-employment testing requirement, unless undue hardship would result.

Absent undue hardship, Title VII requires employers and unions to accommodate an employee who holds religious objections to joining or financially supporting a union. Some employees may seek to display religious icons or messages at their work stations. Others may seek to proselytize by engaging in one-on-one discussions regarding religious beliefs, distributing literature, or using a particular religious phrase when greeting others.

Still others may seek to engage in prayer at their work stations or to use other areas of the workplace for either individual or group prayer or study. In some of these situations, an employee might request accommodation in advance to permit such religious expression. In other situations, the employer will not learn of the situation or be called upon to consider any action unless it receives complaints about the religious expression from either other employees or customers.

To determine whether allowing or continuing to permit an employee to pray, proselytize, or engage in other forms of religiously oriented expression in the workplace would pose an undue hardship, employers should consider the potential disruption, if any, that will be posed by permitting this expression of religious belief. Since an employer has a duty under Title VII to protect employees from religious harassment, it would be an undue hardship to accommodate such expression.

It is necessary to make a case-by-case determination regarding whether the effect on co-workers actually is an undue hardship.


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However, this does not require waiting until the alleged harassment has become severe or pervasive. Susan works as an architect in a private office on an upper floor, where she occasionally interacts with co-workers, but not with clients. Roger is a security guard stationed at a desk in the front lobby of the XYZ building through which all employees, clients, and other visitors must enter.

XYZ orders both to remove the poster despite the fact that both explained that they felt a religious obligation to display it, and despite the fact that there have been no complaints from co-workers or clients. Susan and Roger file charges alleging denial of religious accommodation. The employer will probably be unable to show that allowing Susan to display a religious message in her personal workspace posed an undue hardship, because there was no evidence of any disruption to the business or the workplace which resulted.

Helen, an employee in a mental health facility that served a religiously and ethnically diverse clientele, frequently spoke with clients about religious issues and shared religious tracts with them as a way to help solve their problems, despite being instructed not to do so. The employer has the right to control speech that threatens to impede provision of effective and efficient services. Some employers have integrated their own religious beliefs or practices into the workplace, and they are entitled to do so.

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Michael objects to participating because he believes it conflicts with his own sincerely held religious beliefs. He asks his supervisor to allow him to arrive at the meeting after the prayer. Each December, the president of XYZ corporation directs that several wreaths be placed around the office building and a tree be displayed in the lobby. Several employees complain that to accommodate their non-Christian religious beliefs, the employer should take down the wreaths and tree, or alternatively should add holiday decorations associated with other religions.

Title VII does not require that XYZ corporation remove the wreaths and tree or add holiday decorations associated with other religions. The result under Title VII on these facts would be the same whether in a private or government workplace. As part of its effort to promote employee health and productivity, the new president of a company institutes weekly mandatory on-site meditation classes led by a local spiritualist.

Angelina explains to her supervisor that the meditation conflicts with her sincerely held religious beliefs, and asks to be excused from participating. Because an employer needs to make sure that its employees know about and comply with such employer workplace rules, it would be an undue hardship for XYZ to excuse Lucille from the training. Ascertain the nature of the belief or practice that CP claims R has failed to accommodate e.

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Ascertain whether CP actually notified R of the need for a religious accommodation, i. The investigator should seek evidence of when, where, how, and to whom such notice was given, and the names of any witnesses to the notification. Was an accommodation offered, and if so, what? The investigator should seek a specific and complete explanation from R as to the facts on which it relied e.

Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised) Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised)
Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised) Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised)
Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised) Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised)
Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised) Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised)
Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised) Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised)
Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised) Taking The Devil to Court - Present Your Case (Revised)

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