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EEOC offers guidance on religious issues in workplace

By The Associated Press
07.24.08

NEW YORK — New guidance for handling religious-diversity issues in the workplace was issued July 22 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The “consolidated and updated” policy guidance document was issued as a result of the growing number of religious-discrimination allegations filed with the EEOC, said David Grinberg, a spokesman for the agency.

One reason for the spike in filings is the "significant demographic changes at large and in the workplace specifically," he said.

Last year, there were about 2,900 religious-discrimination filings with the EEOC, up 13% from 2006 and double the number in 1992. Religious-discrimination charges remain a relatively small slice of the total discrimination charges handled by the EEOC, however.

Taking time off for religious holidays and adherence to dress codes are common points of confusion, Grinberg said.

"There was a clamor for more information," Grinberg said. "This is a one-stop source for employers that have questions or need help."

For companies with more than 15 people, federal law requires employers to "reasonably accommodate" an employee's religious beliefs. Employers are exempt only if they can show the accommodation would cause an "undue hardship" on business.

The EEOC periodically issues such guidance documents; Grinberg said similar manuals on racial and national-origin discrimination have been issued in recent years.


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