What Employers Need to Know About Disability and Religious Accommodations for Employees

employee acommodation

00:05 In all likelihood, your company or organization employs individuals of many different backgrounds and abilities. At times, these differences may require what is known as an accommodation–a change in the work environment (or in the way things are usually done) that enables an employee to perform the duties of his or her job while respecting the employee’s disability or religious beliefs or practices.

01:01 The federal Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination by employers with 15 or more employees in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and benefits.

01:28 Small employers may be subject to similar requirements under state law, so be sure to familiarize yourself with any state-specific nondiscrimination laws that may apply.

01:38 On the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in the workplace by employers with 15 or more employees on the basis of an individual’s religion (or lack of religious belief), and requires covered employers to reasonably accommodate an employee whose sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance conflicts with a work requirement, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the business.

02:17 According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency responsible for enforcing the ADA and Title VII, a modification or adjustment is reasonable if it appears to be “feasible” or “plausible.” An accommodation also must be effective in enabling the individual to perform the essential functions of the job and to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.

02:40 Under the ADA, reasonable accommodations for a disability may include such things as making existing facilities accessible; job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment; changing tests, training materials, or policies; providing qualified readers or interpreters; and reassignment to a vacant position.

03:13 Reasonable accommodations for religious practice might include allowing flexible schedules to enable religious observance; changing an employee’s job tasks if a particular belief conflicts with a task; making exceptions to dress and grooming rules; allowing the use of work facilities for religious observances; and accommodating religious expression in the workplace.

03:45 In general, for disability accommodations, undue hardship means significant difficulty or expense. Undue hardship refers not only to financial difficulty, but to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.

04:11 Under Title VII, the undue hardship defense to providing religious accommodation requires a showing that the proposed accommodation in a particular case poses a “more than de minimis” cost or burden.

05:25 From both a legal and managerial standpoint, it is well worth an employer’s effort to attempt to accommodate an employee, as most accommodations are low-cost and yield considerable benefits.



Employees with Disabilities—Free Resources for Employers

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