What can I ask my employer for to accommodate my faith?

The First Amendment of the Constitution grants every person certain things specific to religion — the right to practice any religion and freedom from any imposition of religion by government. Further restrictions against employer discrimination against employees on the basis of religion are mandated by federal law and by state law in California.

But how does that get play out in the workplace? To what extent can employees ask for and expect accommodations to be made for them on the basis of their religious beliefs? A lot depends on your individual circumstances, but if you have concerns about a possible violation of your employee rights, you should talk with an attorney.

Generally speaking accommodations must be made under the federal Civil Rights Act anytime an employee’s religious beliefs run counter to workplace policies or job requirements. However, if the employer can make the case that an accommodation would present an undue hardship on the business, an exception may be allowed.

And what might constitute an undue hardship? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests the following:

  • Accommodation that would cost too much to administer
  • Changes that negatively affect the efficiency of general operations
  • Adjustments that infringe on the rights of other workers
  • Altering tasks such that other employees take on undue risks or burdens
  • Making adaptations that violate other laws or an employee’s benefits

What’s clear from this is that a lot depends on the specifics of the business. What works for one, might not for another. A nurse in a hospital emergency room might not be granted uninterrupted prayer time because of the potential harm that might occur to patients. Alternatively, the accommodation might be possible with some temporary restructuring of staff. It all depends.

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