How far does an employer have to go to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs?


A Christian employee responsible for organizing office functions has complained that management is discriminating against him by requiring him to change the date of a staff luncheon so that Muslim employees who are fasting for Ramadan can attend. What should the employer do?


In a case with similar facts, a federal district court in Colorado ruled that the employer satisfied its duty to accommodate the Christian employee by relieving him of his duties to organize and advertise the lunch in question. The court found that the employee’s preferred accommodation (not changing the date of the luncheon) would have forced the employer to tread on the religious beliefs of others, which an employer is not required to do.

Generally, Title VII requires employers to accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer to do so. According to the EEOC, undue hardship can be shown if an accommodation conflicts with another law, if it violates the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, or if it “requires more than ordinary administrative costs, diminishes efficiency in other jobs, infringes on other employees' job rights or benefits, impairs workplace safety, or causes co-workers to carry the accommodated employee's share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.”

Source: Ross v. Colorado Department of Transportation (DColo 2012) No. 11-cv-02603-REB-KMT; EEOC Questions and Answers: Religious Discrimination in the Workplace,; WK L&B Workday Blog: Workplace collisions between religion and other protected interests (December 27, 2012),

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