Employers should consider the following “best practices” when handling religious issues in the workplace:
- Create an atmosphere of open communication. Encourage employees to bring their work/religion conflicts to your attention, and inform them that you will make reasonable efforts to accommodate their religious beliefs and practices.
- Train managers and supervisors on how to recognize and process religious accommodation requests from employees. Almost any conversation about a work/religion conflict can be considered a request for a reasonable accommodation. There are no “magic words” that trigger the need for reasonable accommodation.
- Check state laws. As in New York and New Jersey, state laws may impose additional requirements on employers when dealing with issues of religious discrimination and accommodation.
- Document all requests for and efforts to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs or practices. In particular, if a request for a reasonable accommodation is denied, make sure to document the reasons why such an accommodation constitutes an undue hardship.