As a small business owner, your first priority relating to addressing religion in the workplace should be securing a comprehensive Indianapolis Employment Practices Liability policy.This will protect you should an employee sue you for religious or any other type of discrimination.In many cases, the BC Human Rights Tribunal has awarded individual employees thousands of dollars in lost pay and damages when an employer did not accommodate their religious (not spiritual) needs. Employers might be surprised to learn that companies must accommodate their employees’ religious needs to the point of undue hardship or face costly consequences.In most cases, accommodation might be as simple as substituting another day off, with pay, to allow the employee to observe his or her religious holiday.If faith-based dress and grooming don’t interfere with employees’ abilities to do their jobs, it’s best to allow them. In December, when two of the most-celebrated religious holidays occur (Christmas and Hanukkah), there’s no need to skip the festivities for fear of offending non-observing employees.Instead of throwing a company Christmas Party, throw a Holiday or End of Year Party.
In a few states, California among them, these claims are routinely filed in state court, and lawyers bring the cases under state law, which provides much stronger protection for workers than Federal law. The most common religious discrimination cases involve claims that the employer failed to accommodate a worker's religion, such as a Sabbath observance, or wearing of a head scarf or a beard for religious reasons. California law also uniquely requires companies to make exceptions to corporate appearance standards for religious practices. Both California and Federal law require employers to provide "reasonable accommodation" so long as the accommodation does not cause an "undue hardship." But the Federal law excuses the employer from providing the accommodation if it suffers even a minimal hardship, whereas California law requires the employer to prove the accommodation would cause a "significant difficulty or expense." As a practical matter, religious accommodations very rarely cause a significant difficulty or expense.By one count from the early 1990s, there were approximately 2,000 federal or state laws that accommodated religious citizens. In virtually all of these cases, there is little evidence that these accommodations have harmed other individuals or kept either the states or the nation from meeting significant policy objectives.America’s laudable history of protecting religious citizens from otherwise valid laws makes it clear not only that it is possible to protect “the sacred rights of conscience” and promote the common good, but also that religious accommodations promote the common good.For example, a person who believes she should meditate every day is not the same as a person who needs every 29th day off to observe the new moon.The latter is a valid religious need, as shown by a case included later in this article.
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Meanwhile, how does the law view an employee’s need for spiritual practices, not deemed religious, such as daily meditation or wiccan prayers or blessings?