The Kim Davis Story: When Religion Clashes with Job Requirements

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The Kim Davis Story: When Religion Clashes with Job Requirements

As the situation continues to evolve regarding Kim Davis, the Rowan, Kentucky, County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, it’s a good reminder for employers in the private sector to be aware of the laws and guidelines that apply to them in regards to making religious accommodations in the workplace.

Religion in the workplace

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace, including hiring, firing, compensation, training, advancement, and other terms or conditions of employment.

The courts say that an employee's religious beliefs should function as a "religion" in his or her life, but that religious beliefs should not be confused with personal preferences. Although religious beliefs do not need to be widely acceptable, logical, or consistent with others' beliefs, there should be evidence that religious beliefs are sincerely held and are honest convictions.

Some common types of religious issues in the workplace include:

  • Work Schedules
  • Religious conduct
  • Organizational religious biases
  • Job duties
  • Required training or staff activities

In short, Title VII requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee whose sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance conflicts with a work requirement, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship.

An undue hardship would happen if the accommodation were to cause more than minimal cost of the operation of the employer’s business.

Factors relevant to undue hardship may include:

  • The type of workplace
  • the nature of the employee’s duties
  • The identifiable cost of the accommodation in relation to the size and operating costs of the employer
  • The number of employees who will in fact need a particular accommodation

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

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