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New EEOC Publications on Religious Discrimination May Help Employers
August 13, 2008

On July 22, 2008, the EEOC issued new guidance materials on religious discrimination that could be a valuable resource for employers wrestling with the issues that arise from increasing religious diversity in the American workplace.

Over the past 15 years, religious discrimination charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have roughly doubled, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of all charges filed.  For Fiscal Year 2007, the EEOC received 2,880 religious discrimination charges, representing 3.5% of all charges filed with the Commission. 

The new materials do not so much represent a new legal standard as a convenient compilation of existing law and practice in this sensitive area.  They include a new Section 12 to the EEOC’s own Compliance Manual, as well as an EEOC Questions and Answers “fact sheet” and a document on Best Practices for Eradicating Religious Discrimination in the Workplace.  All three may be accessed through the following website address:

        www.eeoc.gov/policy/compliance.html  

The Q & A and Best Practices documents can be accessed in pdf. Format and printed separately from the following websites:

          www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/qanda_religion.html

          http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/best_practices_religion.html

The materials cover the gamut of problems that can be encountered when dealing with the varying religious preferences of a diverse workforce, including:

   1.  Coverage issues, including the definition of  "religion" and "sincerely   
         held," the religious organization exception, and ministerial exception. 

  1. Disparate treatment: employment decisions based on religion, including recruitment, hiring, promotion, discipline, and compensation, as well as differential treatment with respect to religious expression; customer preference; security requirements; and bona fide occupational qualifications.
  2. Harassment, including religious belief or practice as a condition of employment or advancement, hostile work environment including efforts by supervisors or fellow employees to proselytize for their religion or to ridicule or criticize the beliefs of other employees, and employer liability issues.
  3. Reasonable accommodation, including notice that an employee’s religious obligations conflict with work requirements, scope of the accommodation requirement and undue hardship defense, and common methods of accommodation.
  4. Related forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on national origin, race, or color, as well as retaliation.

Members of Moore & Van Allen’s Employment Practice Group are available to answer clients’ questions about this sensitive and growing area of employment law and practice.