What Is a Sincerely Held Belief?
Employers must accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs if they are “sincerely held.” While the sincerity of an employee’s beliefs is not usually questioned, the employee’s willingness to face termination due to their beliefs is often sufficient to prove sincerity. This issue usually comes up when an employer believes an employee wants an exception to the normal rules. For example, a company dress code might prohibit employees from displaying tattoos and piercings. If an employee protests this dress code on the grounds that it violates their religious beliefs, the employer might believe that the employee is simply trying to avoid following the rules.
Ultimately, the courts evaluate the issue of “sincerely held” beliefs on a case-by-case basis. If you asked your employer for an accommodation based on a sincerely held belief and were denied it, or retaliated against, speak to a religious discrimination attorney.
How Do I Request Accommodation for My Religious Beliefs at My Workplace?
Ask your manager or boss to meet with you. Explain that you need an accommodation that will allow you to practice your religion at work. It is possible and permissible for your employer to not be familiar with your church or religion. Be prepared to explain what your beliefs are and how changing certain workplace rules would allow you to practice your beliefs. Your boss or manager may then ask you questions about your beliefs and how exactly they conflict with work requirements.
You may then suggest accommodations. If you wish to not work on the Sabbath, you can offer to work at different days of the week. If you need to pray at a certain time, you can ask for a break at the specific time so you can pray. Your employer does not need to grant you the exact accommodation you asked for. However, he or she must try to find a solution that will work since you are legally entitled to an accommodation unless your employer can prove it would cause them undue hardship.
What Is a Reasonable Accommodation for Religious Beliefs?
A reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs is an adjustment an employer makes for an employee that will not cause the employer “undue hardship.”
Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Flexible scheduling;
- Frequent breaks job reassignments; and
- Modifications to workplace policies or procedures.
The adjustment is not a reasonable accommodation if it only lessens the conflict without eliminating it. However, if an accommodation would cause the employer undue hardship, the employer must still make accommodations to the extent that they can without suffering undue hardship. This is a partial accommodation.
The employer’s reasonable accommodation must not discriminate against or disadvantage the employee. The degree to which an accommodation is considered reasonable is determined on a case-by-case basis.
If there are several reasonable accommodations available, an employer does not have to choose the one that the employee prefers. They may select whichever reasonable accommodation best suits their interests.
Speak with Our New Jersey Religious Discrimination Attorneys Today
The law constantly evolves with respect to civil liberties and civil rights. Religious discrimination continues to be a complex aspect of employment law. Do not let this intimidate you. The religious discrimination attorneys at Schall and Barasch LLC have decades of experience in employee-side discrimination cases, and are equipped to advise you on your next steps as well as advocate for you.
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