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Our conference Q&A session was a big hit, but not all of the questions could be answered.  Here’s one question raised in our evaluations about religious accommodations…

Q:        When and how are districts required to accommodate a religious belief?

A:         Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code prohibit religious discrimination in hiring, termination, and other terms and conditions of employment.  These laws also require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and prospective employees whose sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances conflict with work requirements, unless the accommodation will create an undue hardship.  Religious accommodations can include an adjustment in work schedules to attend religious services, exceptions to dress code standards, allowing a break schedule that allows for daily religious observances, or excusing an employee from working on the Sabbath, as examples.  An “undue hardship” may exist if the accommodation is more than minimally costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases work efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their fair share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.   Any claimed undue hardship must be real and not speculative.  These issues are decided on a case-by-case basis.  To raise the undue hardship defense, there must be clear documentation on the negative impact to the District or other employees showing a genuine and significant impact to school operations or other employees.  The U.S. Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Texas Workforce Commission offer further guidance on religious accommodations in the workplace.

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