Accommodation to Religious Practice in Employment

New York City is one of the most diverse places on earth. Representatives of cultures, religions and nationalities from across the globe have converged here to create a rich tapestry of diversity like nowhere else. Most employers understand that accommodating diversity in their workforces is part of doing business in New York. Others, unfortunately, become unwilling to take these steps when it means putting forth effort, spending money or altering their policies.

Generally speaking, an employer is required to make reasonable accommodations to the religious practices of its employees:

  • Allowing devout Muslims to schedule breaks to accommodate their daily prayers
  • Modifying dress code requirements to accommodate Sikh, Jewish or Muslim garb
  • Permitting schedule swapping to allow employees to have off for holy days
  • Modifying grooming requirements to allow for the uncut beards of Sikhs and Muslims

Of course, this requirement is not without its limits. An employee making such a claim must be able to show that there are available reasonable accommodations that could be made to his or her religious practice. Even then, an employer can attempt to demonstrate that the available accommodation would pose an undue financial burden to the employer, would compromise safety or would be grossly unfair to other employees.

For example, allowing an employee to wear certain types of garments in close proximity to moving machinery may create an unavoidable safety risk. Therefore, it would usually not be religious discrimination for an employer to refuse to allow that employee to continue operating that machine

 

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