The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced it is seeking public input on its proposed updated enforcement guidance on religious discrimination. Although EEOC guidance does not have the force and effect of law, it is intended to clarify the existing legal requirements and provide insight as to how the EEOC will analyze these matters.
The current guidance was last updated in 2008, and the proposed revised guidance “describes in what ways Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) protects individuals from religious discrimination in the workplace and sets forth the legal protections available to religious employers.” The proposed update seeks to reflect recent legal developments, including several post-2008 U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The EEOC notes the proposed revisions “include important updates to the discussion of protections for employees from religious discrimination in the context of reasonable accommodations and harassment. It also expands the discussion of defenses that may be available to religious employers.”
The proposed updated guidance covers topics including: (I) COVERAGE, which includes a discussion of the definitions of “religion” and “sincerely held” as well as employer inquiries into an employee’s religious nature or sincerity of belief; (II) EMPLOYMENT DECISIONS, including recruitment, hiring, and promotion decisions based on religion and differential treatment with respect to religious expression, customer preference, security requirements, and bona fide occupational qualifications; (III) HARASSMENT, which includes a discussion of hostile work environment and employer liability issues; (IV) REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION, including the scope of the accommodation requirement, the undue hardship defense, and common methods of accommodation; and (V) RELATED FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION, which discusses the overlap with discrimination based on national origin and race as well as retaliation issues. The proposed guidance also includes a number examples and employer/employee best practices.
A copy of the proposed guidance is available here.