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Respecting Religion In The Workplace

The New Jersey State Law Against Discrimination requires employers to provide reasonable religious accommodation to workers. The U.S. Constitution and the New Jersey State Constitution both guarantee people the right to observe the religion of their choice. In the employment setting, religious accommodation is an acknowledgement that employees come from different faiths and should not be restricted from practicing their religion without good reason. Any sincerely held religious belief is entitled to, at the very least, a discussion of ways your employer can accommodate.

Religious accommodation is not an absolute right. Employers are not required to accommodate you in ways that would place an undue hardship on the business. Whether or not a particular practice can be accommodated, your employer is not entitled to denigrate or ridicule your beliefs. Discrimination and accommodation are related, but not identical. Likewise, the standard for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act is related but not identical the standard for religious accommodation. 

There is no simple answer to what accommodation is reasonable. The question depends on the specific job in question. Generally speaking, if an accommodation would harm workplace safety or infringe on the rights of other workers, it will be considered an undue hardship. In many cases involving religious discrimination and accommodation, employers seek to penalize a worker whose beliefs do not match their own. You are not required to share the same beliefs as your boss or to hide your beliefs in order to be treated as a respected employee.

If your employer is refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation for your sincerely held religious beliefs, that employer is violating the law. If you are being discriminated for your religious beliefs, you may be entitled to relief, including compensatory and punitive damages. You should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

Source: Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, "Handling religious accommodations is serious business," by Katie Loehrke, 3 February 2016 

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Costello & Mains, LLC

18000 Horizon Way, Suite 800
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054

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