Academic journal article Journal of Business and Behavior Sciences

Accommodating Islam in the Workplace

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Behavior Sciences

Accommodating Islam in the Workplace

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The Civil Rights Act (EEOC, 2013) not only prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion but it also requires religious beliefs to be accommodated absent an undue hardship. Within any organization, it is up to management to ensure compliance, whatever the religious practice unless it's too costly. Religion encompasses many dimensions that management may need to address such as clothing, grooming, prayer, and religious observances. A recent survey (Pew Forum, 2010) reveals that 84% of Americans are affiliated with a particular faith. While 78% of the U.S. population identify themselves as Christian, there are many other religions that are non-Christian (Pew Forum, 2010).

One of the more prominent and misunderstood religions in the United States under scrutiny today is Islam. There are approximately 1.62 billion practicing Muslims, which consist of 23% of the world population (Pew Forum, 2010). Based on U.S. Census data, Pew Research (2010) estimates that there are approximately 2.75 million Muslims living in the United States. Many are refugees from Kosovo, Somalia, and Bosnia.

Sisk and Heise (2012) reported that in lower federal court decisions rendered between 1996 and 2005 that Muslims in the United States were "nearly alone among religiously diverse groups" and while they do prevail in many cases they are statistically more unsuccessful in receiving judgments that support religious accommodation. However, the researchers concluded after controlling for other relevant variables that religious bias within the justice system was a significantly related to the adverse decision outcomes.

This bias or misunderstanding of the Islam can arguably be related to the 35% increase in Islamic discrimination charges with the EEOC since 2001 (Aziz, 2013). Islam has a number of religious practices that could impact the workplace. Some customs may be easily accommodated depending on the work environment, while others could cause an undue hardship. The purpose of this paper is to educate management regarding basic Islamic practices and those that could require accommodation in the workplace. Guidelines for religious accommodation of Islam are provided.

RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATION

First, it should be pointed out that religious organizations or those primarily religious in nature are not obligated to accommodate other religious beliefs. In fact, they can terminate employees for not following the tenets of the religion (Mormon Church v. Amos, 1987). Similarly, religious organizations are not compelled to employ anyone not of their faith (Feldstein v. Christian Science Monitor, 1983). Absent these conditions, there are several legal principles governing religious accommodation that have been developed based on case law. First, an employee must have a bona fide religious belief. It is not necessary that the belief be a part of an organized religion or recognizes a Supreme Being or God (Kelly, 2008). Second, the employer must be aware of the need for an accommodation. An employee is not required to explicitly request an accommodation, as long as the employer has constructive knowledge of the need (Findley, Ingram, & Amsler, 2000).

Third, management must attempt to reasonably accommodate the employee's request unless it creates an undue hardship (TWA v. Hardison, 1977). This includes considering a range of appropriate accommodations such as consenting to them making-up work, having someone else cover the job, isolated use of overtime, and so on (Findley, et 2000). However, organizations are not expected to incur a hardship when accommodating religious requests. The Supreme Court ruled in TWA v. Hardison (1977), that an undue hardship is anything beyond de minimis, meaning that the company should not be expected to incur more than very little in terms of costs.

UNDUE HARDSHIP

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) "an accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work. …

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