Religious Accommodations: Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs

Employers typically should assume that a request for religious accommodation is based on a sincerely held religious belief. However, if the employer has a valid and objective reason to request more information from an employee or to doubt the validity of a request, they may ask additional questions, tailored for the individual assessment being conducted.

The EEOC identified the following factors that might undermine the credibility of an employee's claim:

  • The employee has acted inconsistently with the professed belief. However, the EEOC said, "employees need not be scrupulous in their observance."
  • The employee is seeking a "particularly desirable" accommodation that is likely to be sought for nonreligious reasons.
  • The timing of the request is suspicious. For example, the employee may have recently requested the same benefit for secular reasons and been denied.
  • The employer otherwise has reason to believe the accommodation is not sought for religious reasons.

According to the EEOC, when an employer requests additional information, employees should provide information that addresses the employer’s reasonable doubts.  That information need not, however, take any specific form. An employee who fails to cooperate with an employer’s reasonable request for verification of the sincerity or religious nature of a professed belief risks losing any subsequent claim that the employer improperly denied an accommodation. EEOC Guidance, Section 12: Religious Discrimination.

If you have questions about assessing an employee’s request for religious accommodations, please contact HR Partners at 785-233-7860.

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Norton County Hospital

Gina Frack, BS, RN
Interim CEO and COO
Norton County Hospital
 
“HR Partners earned our trust to revamp our employee handbook, restructure the organizational chart and train and develop our most valuable asset – our workforce.”
 
“We knew we had to improve our overall HR program, but the ‘how’ was overwhelming.  HR Partners helped guide us through the tough work.  Their ongoing support gave staff and the organization encouragement and confidence needed to truly make changes happen.”