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Dealing Effectively with Employer Questions Regarding Your Religious Beliefs

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

 

 

This articles discusses securing an accommodation from an objectionable job requirement due to a sincerely held religious belief. I present five (5) questions that—thoroughly resolved—should prepare you for the questions that an employer or an EEOC investigator may ask.

by Christian, civil trial attorney, RL Johnson

 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) is implicated where an employee seeks an

accommodation from job requirement due to religious beliefs. [i] Further, an employee’s right to a

religious accommodation “pertains to prospective employees as well as current employees.[ii] (RELATED: I am Looking for Assistance Filing a Religious Exemption to My Employer’s COVID Vaccine Mandate) In order to be accommodated, the belief must be religious and fall within traditional religious views involving ultimate ideas about life, purpose, and death—but need not be widely practiced.


However, because the definition of religion is broad and protects beliefs, observances, and practices with which the employer may be unfamiliar, the employer should ordinarily assume that an employee’s request for religious accommodation is based on a sincerely held religious belief.


Indeed, the test under Title VII’s definition of religion is whether the beliefs are, in the individual’s “own scheme of things, religious.”[iii] Belief in God or gods is not necessary; nontheistic beliefs can also be religious for purposes of the Title VII exemption as long as they “‘occupy in the life of that individual “a place parallel to that filled by . . . God” in traditionally religious persons.’”[iv] The non-discrimination provisions of the statute also protect employees who do not possess religious beliefs or engage in religious practices.[v] Thus, the EEOC, as a federal government enforcement agency, and its staff, like all governmental entities, are tasked to carry out its mission neutrally and without any hostility to any religion or related observances, practices, and beliefs, or lack thereof.[vi]


If, however, an employee requests a religious accommodation, [RELATED: Legal Protections for Christians Who Oppose Vaccines and Same-Sex Marriages] and an employer has an objective basis for questioning either the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief, observance, or practice, the employer would be justified in seeking additional supporting information.[vii]


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