In Texas and elsewhere around the country, the freedom to practice one’s religion is a core tenet of both the law and culture. There are situations, however, when religious beliefs and practices may conflict with the rules and schedules established by individual employers. In such cases, both employees and human resources departments need to carefully navigate the laws that protect religious expression.
There are multiple ways in which religious practices and beliefs may come into conflict with workplace policy. For example, many employers require their workers to adhere to a dress code, which typically reflects both safety standards as well as a company’s professional image. However, many religions require that members adopt distinctive dress and grooming standards that may conflict with these requirements.
Another area in which religious and business practices may clash involve days and times during which employees are expected to be working. In some religious traditions, Friday, Saturday or Sunday may be days of rest. In addition, certain religions require followers to take breaks several times a day to pray. Some employers may be reluctant to provide such orthodox employees with the flexible scheduling that they need.
The law is clear that the failure of an employer to make reasonable accommodations for its workers’ religious practices can be construed as workplace discrimination. While this does not mean that an employer is obligated to disregard safety standards or risk the business’s profitability, it does mean that a company should make an effort to offer accommodations or provide a solid reason why a request must be denied.
Individuals who believe that they have been discriminated against as a result of their religious practices may benefit from speaking with an employment lawyer. An attorney may be able to review their cases and offer feedback on possible legal options.