Federal employment discrimination law makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment on the basis of religion. The law requires employers to accommodate an employee’s or applicant’s “religious observance and practice” unless the employer shows it cannot reasonably make the accommodation without “undue hardship” on the business.
At issue in the case recently accepted by the Supreme Court is whether an employee or applicant must make an explicit, verbal request for a religious accommodation, or whether it is enough that the employer knew from the facts and circumstances that one was needed. Put differently, is an employer required to make an accommodation if it knows one is necessary (and can be reasonably made without undue burden), or must the employee first use certain “magic words” to request an accommodation. Several Courts of Appeal have held that no magic words are necessary if the employer has enough information to know an accommodation is necessary. In the A&F case, however, the Court of Appeals held the opposite. The Supreme Court will now resolve the conflict.
Regardless of how the A&F case turns out, employees and employers should know that reasonable changes to workplace policies and rules may be required to accommodate the religious practices of employees. If you feel you may be a victim of religious discrimination in the workplace, contact an experienced Cleveland employment lawyer right away.