Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published a new update to its 2008 guidance on religious discrimination in the workplace. Recognizing the “altered legal landscape” that has transpired in the last 12 years, the agency issued a modernized version of its guidance that covers employer obligations and employee rights. Specifically, the guidance addresses:
- Coverage, including when a particular religious practice or belief may trigger Title VII protection, and when it does not; the sincerity of the belief, which is typically presumed, and certain exemptions.
- Employment Actions, including how Title VII’s protections apply in the context of recruiting, hiring, promotion, discipline, termination, compensation, and other terms and conditions of employment such as training, providing leave, customer preference and security requirements.
- Harassment, including how religious beliefs and practices may become coercive in the workplace, such as when a supervisor mandates participation in prayer or penalizes those who do not participate; and how employee proselytizing may become co-worker harassment; and the scope of employer liability.
- Reasonable Accommodations, including the need to connect the request to a religious belief; various areas where requests for accommodations may arise (i.e., dress code; scheduling; change in job tasks); and permitting prayer or other forms of religious expression.
- Related Forms of Discrimination, including national origin, race, color and retaliation; specifically recognizing the overlap that may occur where a given religion is strongly associated, or perceived as associated, with a certain national origin, race and/or color.
Each section of the Guidance identifies best practices for employers. The Harassment section also includes best practices for employees. Public comments may be submitted through December 17, 2020.