In the USA Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of l964 specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against
individuals because of their religion in relation to hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of
employment. This is a federal law applying to all employers with fifteen or more employees.
The same Act also requires employers to reasonably accommodate religious
practices of employees or prospective employees, unless doing so would create an undue hardship
upon the employer. The US Equal Opportunities Commission specifies flexible scheduling,
voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments and
lateral transfers as examples of accommodating employees' religious beliefs.
Employers cannot schedule tests or other
selection procedures in conflict with current or prospective employees religious needs. Nor may
they inquire about applicants' future availability at certain times, maintain restrictive
dress codes, or refuse to allow observance of a Sabbath or other religious holiday, unless the
employer can prove that not doing so would cause an undue hardship. The question of working Saturdays
is probably the most significant. It is up to the employee to bring the issue of religious observance
of a Sabbath or equivalent to the attention of the employer. The employer should affirmatively attempt
to accommodate that objection, perhaps by changing shift arrangements so that the employee can work
an alternative day - unless it is impossible to allow the employee to have Saturday off without
creating an undue hardship on the employer.
Employers can claim undue hardship if the
accommodation of an employee's religious practices requires more than ordinary
administrative costs. Undue hardship also may be shown if changing a bona
fide seniority system to accommodate one employee's religious practices denies another
employee the job or shift preference guaranteed by the seniority system.
Employee whose religious practices prohibit payment of trade union dues cannot be required
to pay such dues, but may pay an equal sum to a charitable organization.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC) Guidelines "do not confine the definition of religious practices to atheistic concepts
or to traditional religious beliefs. Under the Guidelines, a belief is religious not because
a religious group professes that belief, but because the individual sincerely holds that belief
with the strength of traditional religious views."(Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
This article aims to assist HR personnel in understanding UK legislation and how practical issues stemming from religion and belief affect the workplace and HR professionals.
- The UK Transport and General Workers' Union has
claimed its first victory in a case of religious discrimination under new legislation that
came into effect in December 2003.
In Canada, the Canadian Constitution Act 1982 specifically states that (Section 2 [Freedom of
Religion, Speech, Association]:
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion; (...)
Section 15 [General Equality, No Discrimination]
prohibits discrimination in employment.
(1) Every individual is equal before the and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.
(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because or race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.
The Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 promoted equal opportunities for
religious groups. Until recently this was the most radical equal opportunities legislation in
the United Kingdom. (...) It followed North American, rather than British, practice in requiring
UK legislation relating to discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief came into force on December 2nd 2003. The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 make such discrimination unlawful.