City, State, Zip Code
RE: Accommodation for Religious Belief and Practice
Dear (HR Person's Name):
I am writing this letter on behalf of your employee, (church member name) who is a member of the (name of church) Seventh-day Adventist Church. She has requested a schedule that would accommodate her religious observance of the Sabbath. Seventh day Adventists observe the Sabbath, one of the Ten Commandments, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and abstain from secular work during those hours. We will greatly appreciate your giving due consideration to her request for a scheduling accommodation so that (name) does not have to make the impossible choice between faithfulness to God and keeping her job.
In 2015, the Supreme Court clarified the requirements of Federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e. The Supreme Court held that employers cannot make a worker’s need for religious accommodation “a motivating factor” in an adverse employment action, such as termination. The Court explained that a company must do more than simply follow its religion neutral employment policies – it must make affirmative efforts to provide religious accommodation, even giving the employee who needs accommodation “favored treatment.” The Supreme Court explained the law with the following example:
An employer may not make an applicant's religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions. For example, suppose that an employer thinks (though he does not know for certain) that a job applicant may be an orthodox Jew who will observe the Sabbath, and thus be unable to work on Saturdays. If the applicant actually requires an accommodation of that religious practice, and the employer's desire to avoid the prospective accommodation is a motivating factor in his decision, the employer violates Title VII.
EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, 135 S.Ct. 2028 (2015)
In the typical employment setting, there are various methods that may be utilized to provide scheduling accommodations. These include:
1. Adjusting the employee’s schedule
2. Arranging shift swaps with other employees, either on a day by day basis, or for a period of time
3. Permitting the employee to utilize paid leave, such as vacation or sick leave
4.Permitting the employee to take unpaid leave
5.Refraining from assigning attendance points for absences on account of the religious observance
Remember, Title VII places the obligation on the employer to provide religious accommodation, it does not permit the employer to delegate that responsibility to the employee.
In his concurring opinion, Justice Alito stressed the Court’s holding that “neutral work rules” do not excuse a company’s failure to accommodate a religious practice. Examples of such “neutral work rules” or policies include:
1. Rotating or other scheduling practices
2.Policies regarding swapping shifts
3.Policies regarding the use of paid and unpaid leave
According to the Supreme Court, an employer cannot simply apply these sorts of “neutral work rules” if the end result is to discipline or terminate the employee who seeks religious accommodation.
I am confident that you will be able to arrange a suitable accommodation for (name), and that when you do so, you will secure (his/her) loyalty and dedication to be the best employee (he/she) can be. His respect for God’s authority that leads him to observe the Sabbath will also translate into respect for the best interests of your company, and giving his very best service at work.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation with this request.
cc: Alan J. Reinach, Esq