Religious Accommodations: Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs
Employers typically should assume that a request for religious accommodation is based on a sincerely held religious belief. However, suppose the employer has a valid and objective reason to request more information from an employee or doubt a request's validity. In that case, they may ask additional questions tailored for the individual assessment being conducted.
The EEOC identified the following factors that might undermine the credibility of an employee's claim:
- The employee has acted inconsistently with the professed belief. However, the EEOC said, "employees need not be scrupulous in their observance."
- The employee seeks a "particularly desirable" accommodation that is likely to be sought for nonreligious reasons.
- The timing of the request is suspicious. For example, the employee may have recently requested the same benefit for secular reasons and been denied.
- The employer otherwise has reason to believe the accommodation is not sought for religious reasons.
According to the EEOC, when an employer requests additional information, employees should provide information that addresses the employer's reasonable doubts. That information need not, however, take any specific form. An employee who fails to cooperate with an employer's reasonable request to verify a professed belief's sincerity or religious nature risks losing any subsequent claim that the employer improperly denied an accommodation. EEOC Guidance, Section 12: Religious Discrimination.
If you have questions about assessing an employee's request for religious accommodations, don't hesitate to get in touch with HR Partners at 785-233-7860.