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Undue hardship, religion and workplace discrimination

In New York and across the nation, there is an increasing amount of attention paid to workers' rights. In the news, that is often focused on harassment, gender, and sexual orientation workplace discrimination. However, religious discrimination is still a concern for many employers. While employees have the right to practice their religion and receive accommodations for it, employers also have the right to be protected from undue burden and hardship.

Understanding reasonable accommodation and whether there are undue expectations on an employer is key. When there are accusations of employment law violations, having a legal defense is critical for the employer.

Employers must make reasonable accommodations for an employee if he or she has sincerely held religious beliefs. If these requirements present an undue hardship on the employer, then the employer is shielded from needing to provide that accommodation. When the term "reasonable" is used, it means that the employee can follow the requirements of the religion and there will be little impact on the workplace and its environment. This goes beyond religions that are considered traditional and organized. People who have a less prominent religion that is informal and has few members must be accommodated too.

With undue burden or hardship, there are several factors that must be considered with the request for accommodation: the workplace itself; what the employee's duties are; if there are costs that are beyond what would be reasonable based on the size of the business and its budget; if the accommodation would negatively impact the business; if there is a collective bargaining agreement; how many people require the accommodation; if it would hinder safety in the workplace; and if the accommodation violates the law.

When an employer is accused of religious discrimination, it can be problematic in myriad ways. Not only does it cause issues in the workplace, but it can be discovered by the public and paint the business in a negative light. For employers who believe the request for religious accommodation went beyond what is reasonable and they say it was an undue burden or hardship, accusations of employment law violations and workplace discrimination are damaging. Having legal assistance from a law firm that understands employment law for employers in the context of religious discrimination is critical to lodging a defense.

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