The culture wars are coming to a workplace near you. There was a time when religious discrimination cases arose from the claims of certain employees that their work requirements be waived or that their work schedules be adjusted because of a conflict with their religious obligations. But now a new kind of religious discrimination claim is coming from those who feel they have a religious obligation to affirm publicly in the workplace their religious beliefs, proselytize to others or expressly oppose what they believe to be the sinful behavior of their co-workers — even if this conflicts with their employer’s anti-harassment or diversity policies that affirm the value of all employees irrespective of their religion, sexual orientation or lifestyle.
Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion. If an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs require that employee to engage in observances or practices at work that conflict with the employer’s policy, it is the employer that must reasonably accommodate the employee’s needs unless doing so would cause an undue hardship. When an employee’s religiously based need to proselytize or affirmatively oppose sinfulness conflicts with an employer’s diversity policies or is experienced as harassing by co-workers, employers that reflexively enforce their anti-harassment policies run the risk of liability for religious discrimination. Some effort to accommodate the employee’s religious practice must be made.
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