EEOC Offers New Guidance on Religious Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its Compliance Manual on religious discrimination today. The new guidance comes at a time when religious pluralism has increased in the American workforce. With this increase in religious diversity, there has been a corresponding rise in the number of religious discrimination claims filed with the EEOC; in fact, the number has doubled in the last 15 years.

The topics covered by the updated Compliance Manual include the following:

• Coverage issues, including the definition of “religion” and “sincerely held,” the religious organization exception, and the ministerial exception.

• Disparate treatment analysis of employment decisions based on religion, including recruitment, hiring, promotion, discipline, and compensation, as well as differential treatment with respect to religious expression; customer preference; security requirements; and bona fide occupational qualifications.

• Harassment analysis, including religious belief or practice as a condition of employment or advancement, hostile work environment, and employer liability issues.

• Reasonable accommodation analysis, including notice of the conflict between religion and work, scope of the accommodation requirement and undue hardship defense, and common methods of accommodation.

• Related forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on national origin, race, or color, as well as retaliation.

The Compliance Manual is meant to be studied and used by EEOC investigators. However, it makes interesting reading for my potential clients, as well as Human Resources professionals and employer counsel. I recommend it to anyone who is involved in a case or potential case of religious discrimination.