Title VII addresses two types of religious discrimination: 1) adverse treatment based on religion; and 2) a failure to reasonably accommodate a religious belief or practice. Employers are increasingly faced with the challenge of responding to employee requests to be relieved of work requirements related to religious beliefs and observance. This article provides general background regarding the definition of “religion” and “religious belief” in the context of providing a religious accommodation, and an overview of the growing body of case law that deals with the employee’s right to seek and the employer’s obligation to provide a “reasonable accommodation.”

What Is a Religion or Religious Belief?In religious accommodation claims, the employee must prove that he has a sincerely held religious belief that is in conflict with a requirement of his employment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however, offers little guidance as to what constitutes a religion, stating only, “The term ‘religion’ includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief … ” 42 U.S.C.A. Sec. 2000e(j). Nor is there any guidance on how the employer is to determine whether the religious belief is sincerely held.

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