You may be one of the many people in New Jersey for whom the practice of religion is of highest importance, providing the principles that guide your every decision. On the other hand, maybe it’s not for you. You may feel that religion has its place, and those who practice it should not force others to believe the same way.
If you are an employer, however, the faith of your employees should not factor into the way you treat them. This includes everything from your decision about whether to hire someone to the reasons why you terminate a worker. In fact, the law protects workers from discrimination based on their faith.
How do I accommodate religious beliefs?
For some, the nature of their religious beliefs is quite private. Other religions require a more open expression of faith, such as through clothing or headwear. You may need to revisit your employee policies to ensure your dress code does not infringe on the rights of any practicing members of certain faiths. This is only one way to accommodate someone’s religious preference. Other ways include the following:
- Flexibility in your employee’s schedule to attend religious services
- The option to trade shifts or take personal days for religious events
- Adjustments to company policies regarding grooming, such as for facial hair, that do not present safety hazards
- Time throughout the day to perform religious requirements, such as offering mandatory prayers
Accommodations do not include allowing anyone to proselytize, nor do they allow you to require employees to participate in any religious event, such as a morning prayer or bible study, or to penalize employees who do not attend such events.
Your best practices
As a business owner or manager, you often set the tone for how your employees behave. Refusing to allow your employees to harass, mock or joke about something as serious as one’s religious beliefs is a good step for setting a tone of non-discrimination. You can also be open to reasonable requests for accommodations that fit within the law.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not require you to make any accommodations that are a hardship, such as those that would create a burden on your other employees. The EEOC also does not expect you to make accommodations that an employee does not request. However, you must be careful not to take any action that an employee may interpret as retaliation for seeking religious accommodations. Your legal counsel can advise you on the best steps to take to protect yourself if you face claims of discrimination.