Religious Accommodations & EEO Training

Hello, and welcome to Training with LegalEase. Today, I would like to talk about religious accommodations as they relate to EEO training.

Most employers realize the importance of complying with state and federal EEO laws. To meet those compliance standards, many employers send employees to EEO training. The EEO training often includes topics such as being respectful to others, not discriminating, not harassing, and it will likely include a segment on gender identity and respect for the LBGTQ+ community.

In a recent case of Barrett versus Vilsack this is exactly what the employer’s EEO training included. However, one employee complained that the training violated his religion so he requested a religious accommodation under Title VII. The employer denied the request for an accommodation.  The employee did attend the EEO training, but later filed an EEOC claim against the employer. The claim was dismissed, but the analysis is very interesting.

Typically, if an employer cannot accommodate an employee, the employer will tell the employee the accommodation request will cause an undue hardship. The EEOC confirmed that undue hardship can remain the analysis in a situation like this, but the EEOC clarified that undue hardship may not always include a financial analysis. Since the employer must comply with state and federal EEO laws, having employees to attend the training helps with that compliance requirement – the EEO training was designed to comply with the law.

 The EEOC ruled that an undue hardship analysis can include matters other than money. The EEOC also ruled that the employee failed to present evidence of a sincerely held religious belief because the employee simply made a general statement that the training violated his religion because it involved the LBGTQ+ community.

The case is very interesting for employers when analyzing religious beliefs and accommodation requests. Of course, employers need to take any request for an accommodation seriously, but there are issues that can go into the analysis other than the financial burden for the employer.

If you have a question involving an employee who has requested a religious accommodation, give us a call. We would be happy to walk you through the process. Thank you for joining Training with LegalEase.