Not sure whether you have to allow employees to religious gear? Afraid how customers will react? Worried that you’ll have to grant other employees’ requests for an exception to your dress code?
Fear not. Today the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issues a question-and-answer guidance and a fact sheet addressing workplace rights and responsibilities with respect to religious dress and grooming under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The general principle is easy to enough to state: Title VII requires an employer, once on notice that a religious accommodation is needed for sincerely held religious beliefs or practices, to make an exception to dress and grooming requirements or preferences, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship.
But sometimes it’s the particulars of the situation that flummox employers. So here are some application of those principles.
- Requiring an employee’s religious garb, marking, or article of faith to be covered is not a reasonable accommodation if that would violate the employee’s religious beliefs.
- An employer may bar an employee’s religious dress or grooming practice based on workplace safety, security, or health concerns only if the circumstances actually pose an undue hardship on the operation of the business, and not because the employer simply assumes that the accommodation would pose an undue hardship.
- When an exception is made as a religious accommodation, the employer may still refuse to allow exceptions sought by other employees for secular reasons.
- Neither co-worker disgruntlement nor customer preference constitutes undue hardship.
The EEOC advises employers always to make case-by-case determinations of any requested religious exceptions and to train managers accordingly.
Here’s a link the q and a and to the fact sheet.
Federal budgets are wish lists of what additional monies agencies would like to pursue their most important goals. They’re unlikely to get all the sought-after increases, but the request does reveal where the agency sees its priorities.
For the U.S. Department of Labor, three areas of continuing interest where substantial additional sums are sought in the 2015 budget are enforcement of wage and hour laws, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and misclassification of workers as independent contractors.
The first two of these items are under the purview of the Wage and Hour Division, which said it is seeking an additional $41 million for wage and hour law enforcement and protection of leave rights under the FMLA.
To combat worker misclassification, DOL wants an additional $14 million. According to the DOL’s announcement, such misclassification deprives the affected individuals “of benefits and protections to which they are legally and entitled and disadvantages employers who comply with the law.”
And the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which enforces nondiscrimination requirements in federal contracts, is requesting an additional $107 million to ”strengthen efforts to eliminate pay discrimination affecting women.”
Read more on these and other budgetary requests by DOL.
Employers can’t simply assume that when something happens at work that causes an employee to depart the workplace that the employee is a safety risk.
Rather, analyzing whether an employee is a safety risk requires employers to use the best available medical information to evaluate the seriousness and likelihood of any risk.
That’s the lesson from today’s EEOC announcement that it settled an ADA lawsuit against Rexnord Industries LLC, a Wisconsin-based company. According to the lawsuit, the employer violated the ADA by firing an assembler at its Stearns Division in Cudahy, Wis., because it regarded her as having a disability after two unrelated incidents which ended in ambulance trips to the hospital. It acted without conducting the requisite safety risk assessment, the commission charged.
To settle the lawsuit the company agreed to pay $25,0oo to the former employee, remove from her file any reference to the termination of her employment; train its human resources staff on the ADA and the ADA-required process to designate an employee as a direct threat to safety; and keep records of its direct-threat designations.
And speaking of same-sex harassment, Washington grower Roy Farms has also agreed to settle EEOC’s claims that it did nothing to stop a male supervisor’s harassment of four male subordinates.
The grower’s undoing, in the eyes of the EEOC. was its failure to act even after one of the alleged victims reported the harassment to another supervisor and to the farm’s owner. All to avail.
To settle the case, Roy Farms agreed to pay $85,000 to the victims, as well issue equal employment opportunity policies in English and Spanish to all of its employees in eastern Washington; institute changes to ensure that its complaint procedures are accessible; provide EEO training for its managers; and hold them accountable for any harassment occurring under their watch.
In addition, Roy Farms will report harassment complaints to the EEOC for three years.
The case is another warning–should one be necessary–that the EEOC won’t put up with harassment whether it’s opposite or same sex.
Following on the heels of the Boh Brothers Construction Co. settlement that I wrote about yesterday, it seems to me that workplaces that may be susceptible to this kind of behavior include where “macho” view of being male prevail or in remote isolated establishments such as an agricultural field.
Starting in April, employees of New York City businesses with at least five employees will eligible to take paid sick leave under an expanded version of the city’s paid sick leave law.
The City Council last week approved this expansion of the law. Currently the law only applies to companies with at least 15 employees.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who pushed for the changes, said he would sign the bill.
Under the bill, workers will be eligible for minimum of five sick days.
Needless to say, small business isn’t thrilled about this new government mandate, but the city council made a concession to them by including a grace period of six months before businesses will be fined.
However, workers who feel they’ve been denied their sick leave rights will have extra time to file a complaint, as the city council also extended the statute of limitations from nine months to two years.
Former mayor Bloomberg vetoed the original paid sick leave law, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees. However, other cities including Portland and San Francisco, have enacted paid sick leave laws.
That puts states and localities ahead of the federal government, since the federal Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees only the right to take unpaid leave for family health care emergencies.
If you type in the search term “sick leave,” you’ll find out where else in the U.S. paid sick leave laws are on the books.
At long last, Boh Brothers Construction and ex-employee Kerry Woods can put their case of man-on-man sexual harassment behind them. The EEOC first brought the suit against the company in 2009 and through various legal twists and turns that saw the case go up on appeal to the Fifth Circuit and then back to the district court, the company has folded its tent and decided to settle.
The EEOC announced this week that the company has agreed to pay Woods $125,000 to settle the case once and for all.
The case was noteworthy as one of the first Title VII lawsuits to test the parameters of the idea that same-sex harassment is as much a violation of Title VII as when an employee is harassed by a member of the opposite sex.
That Title VII reaches same-sex harassment is pretty much accepted law now.
The lesson for employers is don’t let your supervisors engage in behavior that could lead to a sexual harassment charge. And that includes him or her creating a sexually-charged or hostile environment.
Here’s the EEOC’s announcement, and here’s the EEOC’s web page on sexual harassment do’s and dont’s.
Health plans in the nation’s capital won’t any longer be allowed to deny coverage for treatments associated with gender identity disorder.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced today that henceforth health plans in the city will have to cover gender identity disorder as a medical condition.
The coverage extends to all insured city residents — including the roughly one-third of residents receiving Medicaid benefits — who are diagnosed by a doctor with the condition and for whom treatment is deemed medically.
The action culminates a move last March by officials issued a bulletin notifying health insurers to remove language that discriminated on the basis of gender identity and expression from their policies in order to allow transgendered individuals to obtain medical benefits.