When can my employer deny my religious accommodation?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that Abercrombie and Fitch engaged in discriminatory conduct by failing to hire a Muslim woman because her headscarf didn’t fit within the company’s “Look Policy.” Read more here.  The Court stressed an employer’s obligation to make a reasonable religious accommodation for employees whom they reasonably believe might need one, which included bending a look policy to include a headscarf.

However, this doesn’t mean that every religious accommodation must be accepted.  Last week, an Indiana Court held that a Baptist Minister’s claim that he needed to take every Sunday off as an accommodation was rejected because of his position within his union’s seniority ranks and the Collective Bargaining Agreement that governed his working conditions. (Read the Opinion & Order here)  In this case, the employee applied for and was hired into a union position after his non-union position was eliminated, and because he held a less senior position than others, he couldn’t switch around the schedule of more senior employees to have every Sunday off.  The Court held that it was not reasonable to go against the CBA in that case, and the religious accommodation was not required.

 

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