Title VII also prohibits religious discrimination by covered employers. What is the law's definition of religion?
Title VII provides for a broad definition of what constitutes religion. The statute provides: "The term 'religion' includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee's religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business."
How does an employee prove a claim of religious discrimination?
The employee first must establish a prima facie, or basic, claim of religious discrimination. This consists of three elements. First, the employee must show that he holds a sincere religious belief or practice that conflicts with an employer's work policy. Second, the employee must establish that he or she has informed the employer about the conflict between the employee's religion and the employer practice. Third, the employee must show that he or she was discharged or disciplined because of this conflict.
If the employee establishes a prima facie claim, what must the employer do?
The employer must show that it cannot reasonably accommodate the employee's religious practice without working an undue hardship on the employer's business. In this
LegalSpeak: Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc. (1998)
We see no justification in the statutory language or our precedents for a categorical rule excluding same-sex harassment claims from the coverage of Title VII. As some courts have observed, male-on-male sexual harassment in the workplace was assuredly not the principal evil Congress was concerned with when it enacted Title VII. But statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed. Title VII prohibits "discrimination] ... because of ... sex" in the "terms" or "conditions" of employment. Our holding that this includes sexual harassment must extend to sexual harassment of any kind that meets the statutory requirements.
case, the burden is on the employer to show that the accommodation was unreasonable—that it would constitute an undue hardship.
A classic example would be where an employee's Sabbath day for his religion falls on a Saturday. In other words, the employee's religious practices preclude him from working on Saturdays. The employer, however, insists that the employee work on Saturdays. Depending on the particular facts at that place of employment, a court might find that the employer would have to reasonably accommodate the employee's request and simply place the employee on shifts on other days and not require the employee to work on Saturdays.
What is an example of a discrimination case involving religion in which it was ruled that the employer did not accommodate the employee adequately?
In EEOC v. Texas Hydraulics, 583 F.Supp. 2d 904 (M.D. Tenn. 2008), an employee worked at a plant, but the employee's religious beliefs prevented him from working on Saturday—the Sabbath day of his religion. For many years in the workplace this was not a problem. However, the employer's business demands increased and the employer required the employee to work on Saturdays. After the employee failed to work on several Saturdays, he was terminated. The employee filed a claim of religious discrimination under Title VII. The employer later filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that the employee's claim should be dismissed.
A reviewing federal district court refused to dismiss the employee's claim and determined that there was evidence that the employer failed to reasonably accommodate the employee's religious beliefs. According to the court, the employer could have:
• Initiated a voluntary shift exchange with this employee and other employees.
• Posted a notice asking other employees to work for the employee on Saturday.
In the American workplace, employers are supposed to make any reasonable accommodations necessary for employees when it comes to religious practices, such as allowing those of the Jewish faith to observe the Sabbath (iStock).
• Modified or changed the employee's job so that he would not have to work nearly as many Saturday shifts.
Under the facts of this particular case, the reviewing federal district court determined that the employer did not make a good enough attempt at accommodating the employee's religious practices.