When it comes to religious beliefs, employers would be wise to be more accommodating

The United States has long been revered as a country where individuals are free to express their opinions and beliefs. Today people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and religions live and work in the U.S. The changing face of American society is reflected in workplaces across the country as people of differing ages, faiths and ethnic backgrounds work side by side.

In cases where an employee makes a request based on their religion or beliefs, an employer would be wise to consider such requests with fairness and prudence.

During 2013 alone, a total of 3,721 claims related to workplace religious discrimination were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In one notable case, an employee who worked at a fast food retail chain restaurant requested she be allowed to wear a dress in place of the required uniform that included pants.

The woman claimed that her religion required modest apparel and that she could not wear the restaurant’s pants uniform. Despite her religious-based request, her employer failed to grant her request. The woman then filed a religious discrimination lawsuit with the EEOC which she recently won.

A key issue in the woman's lawsuit hinged on whether her request placed an undue hardship on the employer. In this case, the court did not believe that to be the case. Per the settlement, the fast food employer must pay the woman $40,000. Additionally, the employer must provide employee training related to religious discrimination.

Employees who believe they have been the victim of workplace discrimination may choose to take legal action. Discrimination based on one's sex, race, age or religion is illegal and action should be taken to ensure employers provide a workplace that is inclusive and free of discrimination.

Source: Workforce.com, "Sacred Grounds — for Lawsuits," Max Mihelich, April 6, 2014Business Management Daily, "KFC settles, agreeing to skirt pants issue," April 5, 2014

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