The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and Title VII prohibit discrimination against employees because of their religion, and requires that employers accommodate the religious practices of employees and job applicants. In 2013, the FEHA was updated to ensure that California law was more protective than Federal law, and to ensure that religious clothing and grooming practices were also protected.

Accommodating Your Religious Beliefs

Reasonable accommodations of an employee’s religious beliefs may include job restructuring, reassignment, modification of work practices, or allowing time off to avoid a conflict with an employee’s religious observances. Furthermore, an employer may not segregate an employee from public view as a form of accommodation; for example, an employer cannot make a Sikh employee who wears a turban work in the back of the store where no one can see him.

When an Accommodation is an Undue Burden

An employer cannot deny reasonable requests for time off for religious observances, such as a break from work to pray, or a scheduling change to accommodate a holy day.

 Under California law, unlike Federal law, an employer can only refuse to accommodate an employee’s religious practices or observance if the accommodation requires significant difficulty or expense. This stands in stark contrast to the much lower Federal standard, which only requires a showing of a minimal additional cost of de minimis burden on the employer.  Simply requiring time off on holy days, or wearing religious clothing, will often not qualify as a significant additional burden on the employer and such requests should be accommodated under California law.

Need to talk? Give us a call or send us an email.