Increase in Religious-Discrimination Claims Prompts EEOC to Issue Updated Guidance

Religious-discrimination claims are on the rise and that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.  Nationwide, charge filings with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), have risen substantially over the past 15 years, doubling from 1,388 in FY1992 to a record high of 2,880 in FY2007.

Filings by Muslims increased from 398 to 909 between FY1997 and FY2007–the largest increase of any major religious group during that period.  In response to the trend, the EEOC recently updated the section of its Compliance Manual dealing with religious discrimination. The agency also issued a best-practices guide for employers, including new references to headscarves.  In a related document, the EEOC says,

Requests for accommodation of a religious belief or practice could include, for example: a Catholic employee requesting a schedule change so that he can attend church services on Good Friday; a Muslim employee requesting an exception to the company’s dress and grooming code allowing her to wear her headscarf, or a Hindu employee requesting an exception allowing her to wear her bindi (religious forehead marking); an atheist asking to be excused from the religious invocation offered at the beginning of staff meetings; an adherent to Native American spiritual beliefs seeking unpaid leave to attend a ritual ceremony; or an employee who identifies as Christian but is not affiliated with a particular sect or denomination requests accommodation of his religious belief that working on his Sabbath is prohibited.