The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Employers Must 'Reasonably Accommodate' Religious Observances

Most American workers are granted the day off for the Christian observance of Christmas, which arguably has morphed into a secular holiday, but what about Muslims who celebrate Eid or Jews who celebrate Rosh Hashanah?

FindLaw tells us that employers have a duty to accommodate the religious customs and observances of their workers, just as long as the accommodation doesn't over burden the employer. 

To use FindLaw's example, a disc jockey that is fired because his religion forbids him from listening to rock and roll music wouldn't have much of a need to contact a Chicago employment lawyer. If playing rock and roll is the radio station's business, then accommodating the disc jockey most certainly would create a serious burden.

As the observances of Eid-ul-Fitr  and Rosh Hashanah both draw to a close, it's important that employees understand their rights as outlined by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Of course other religions, including Hinduism, are just as protected.  

But perhaps the best way to understand employees' religious observance rights is to look at an example of alleged discrimination. More than 160 Muslims alleging discrimination against two JBS Swift meatpacking plants claim they were routinely harassed by coworkers while trying to worship during Ramadan last year, according to a Washington Post article. 

Specifically, they claim coworkers hurled blood and bones at them, that anti-Muslim graffiti adorned the bathroom walls and that supervisors disrupted their prayers and even fired many Islamic employees. They rank among the largest Muslim discrimination lawsuits since Sept. 11, 2001, alleging a pattern of religious discrimination and a hostile work environment.

Plaintiff Hassan Abdi Farah, a Somali immigrant, said workers often threw meat and fat at him and that he was warned by a supervisor that he would be fired if he filed a complaint.

But sometimes it's not as easy to determine whether a line has been crossed; speak with an Illinois employment lawyer if you have questions.

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