March 16, 2018

Religious Discrimination: The Devil is in the Details

           A maintenance worker in Tennessee quits after receiving his W-2 labeled with the number 666.  He had previously been assigned the number for his badge ID number.  After speaking with human resources and explaining his objection to the number as a symbol of the devil, he was assigned a new number.  However, his W-2 tax form from his employer’s payroll service had the “mark of the beast.”

That employee doesn’t plan to sue, but others have.  Last year a factory worker settled his religious discrimination law suit related to the number.  Billy Hyatt refused to wear a sticker that indicated that it was the 666th accident free day at the factory.  Hyatt refused to wear the sticker, didn’t work that day, was given a 3 day suspension, and was later fired.

What employer’s need to know

            Federal anti-discrimination law makes it unlawful to discriminate against applicants or employees based on their religion.  Employers must “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs unless it would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer.  The EEOC defines “undue hardship” as something that “requires more than ordinary administrative costs, diminishes efficiency in other jobs, infringes on other employees’ job rights or benefits (or) impairs workplace safety.”

  • Don’t treat applicants or employees differently in hiring, firing or other job conditions because of their religious beliefs or practices.
  • Don’t force employees to participate or not participate in a religious activity at work.