Articles Tagged with religious accommodation

Religious accommodations to religious practices under Title VII of theThe Groff v Dejoy Postmaster General is a recent, significant Supreme Court case, which sets the employers’ obligation to accommodate employee religious practices. This case is extremely helpful to all those workers who need a religious accommodation at workplace, especially if it involves not working on certain days or holidays. In Groff, the highest Court has overturned a number of other decisions, which held that an employer is not required to “bear more than de minimus cost” in order to provide a religious accommodation.

The Supreme Court logically observed that these prior holdings are simply incompatible with the very language of Title VII, which requires employers to provide a religious accommodation unless it imposes “undue hardship” on their operations. “Undue hardship” is to mean a burden that is substantial in the overall context of an employer’s business. The Court further noted that even if the standard for relieving the employer of their obligation to accommodate was “hardship” and not “undue hardship”, it would still be a much higher standard than “more than de minimus cost”.   The Court went on to reiterate this point: “What is most important is that “undue hardship” in Title VII means what it says, and courts should resolve whether a hardship would be substantial in the context of an employer’s business in the common-sense manner that it would use in apply any such test.” The Court further observed: “An employer who fails to provide an accommodation has a defense only if the hardship is “undue”, and a hardship that is attributable to other employees’ animosity to a particular religion, to religion in general, or to the very notion of accommodation religious practice cannot be considered “undue”.

The Supreme Court also clarified that faced with an accommodation request such as Groff’s (a request to be exempt from working on Sundays), it would not be enough for an employer to conclude that forcing other employees to work overtime would constitute undue hardship. Consideration of other options, such as voluntary shift swapping, would also be necessary. This is another reminder to employers (and employees as well) that both sides are encouraged to be creative when searching for appropriate accommodations, as there is no set list of options by law, and availability and reasonable of any considered accommodations depends on that employee’s job duties, the nature of employer’s business and their resources, and other factors unique to that specific situation.

Here are three highly questionable behaviors, to put it mildly, we have been recently obeserving employers engage in, when denying their employees religious exemptions from their Covid-19 vaccination requirement at workplace. These behaviors do not include the obvious point – continuing the vaccanation requirement policy despite being fully aware that the vaccines in question neither stop infection nor transmission of Covid-19 are needlessly harmful to both the employers and their workforce.

  1. Requiring fully remote employees to be vaccinated and denying religious exemptions from this quirement on the grounds of “undue hardship”. It is hard to imagine a half legitimate argument as to why any employer would care about their fully remote workers’ vaccination status, let alone denying a remote worker’s request for a religious exemption from the vaccination requirement. These workers never come in contact with their co-workes or with the employer’s customers / clients, so there is no risk of any type of exposure from that employee.
  2. Denying requests for a religious accommodation to be exempt from the vaccination requirement without a good reason. We repeatedly see employers deny religious exemption requests after receiving more than sufficient information to grant an exemption, using the following vague verbeage: “Based on the information you have provided, we are unable to grant you your accommodation request”. Employers often do not (and cannot) provide any legitimate basis for their decision to deny these requests.
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