Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on a job applicant’s or employee’s religion. But did you know that federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws may also require household employers to provide religious accommodations for household employees, such as nannies, with sincerely held beliefs? As a best practice, we recommend adhering to the guidelines that follow.
While the law only requires an employer to make religious workplace accommodations upon request, there are some proactive best practices that you can take. For example, you may wish to provide a limited number of “floating holidays” as part of a vacation/sick time/personal time policy that you have created. Floating holidays allow employees to enjoy income replacement when observing religious holidays.
Another proactive measure is to discuss in advance any religion-based dietary concerns that may arise. If your nanny will be preparing meals in your home, there may be certain foods that he/she will not wish to come in contact with based on religious beliefs. Employees observing religious practices by abstaining from eating or handling specific foods are likely to appreciate such consideration of their dietary restrictions. Furthermore, employees generally welcome the freedom to be able to wear or display religious symbols at work.
It is critically important to recognize religious accommodation requests and have a strategy for responding in a manner that is not construed as being insensitive or discriminatory in nature. We recommend providing reasonable accommodations of an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would make your employee unable to perform the duties and requirements set out in the job description.
Last year, individuals filed more than 2,000 EEOC charges against employers across the county for religious-based discrimination claims. The keys to remaining outside of that statistic are:
- to discuss in advance any religious accommodations that will be made and to put those details in the work agreement
- to ensure you are not discriminating against individuals based on closely held religious beliefs and are offering reasonable workplace accommodations to those who request them based on religion
For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.