Want to know how to keep your dealership compliant without losing employees? You’ve come to the right place. That colossal question was the theme of one of our recent webinars, in which we explored how a dealership can create a culture of compliance without sending staff running off to pastures with less paperwork.
If you missed the webinar, or if you’d like to review what we discussed, you’ve come to the right place—again! We’re recapping the full presentation on this blog.
Read Part 1 here, where we cover pay plan changes.
Discrimination Seems Straightforward
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and various similar state laws, most dealerships understand that it’s illegal to make a decision about whether to hire or fire someone based on that individual’s gender, race, national origin, or other protected characteristics.
There are, however, a couple of areas of employment that aren’t as easy to understand, and which require more of an employer. In other words, it’s not just a matter of what you shouldn’t do, but the accommodations you need to make in your workplace.
The most common category of accommodations are disability accommodations: wheelchair ramps, modified work schedules, sign language interpretation services, and so on. What few dealerships recognize, however, is their affirmative duty to accommodate religious circumstances.
Before we go deeper, it’s important to clarify how the law considers religion and religious accommodations. Does an employer need to accommodate someone, for instance, who invents their own religion over the weekend and says, “I need to take Wednesdays off because I am a founding member of the Church of the Tree Frog?” Not necessarily. However, an employer shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what it is and isn’t a religion, or deny someone’s request for accommodation if the employer doesn’t agree with or share beliefs about the precepts of the religion.
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As long as there is some basic bona fide religious belief at issue, an employer does have to take steps to accommodate specific requests. That doesn’t mean that the employer must always provide accommodations exactly as an employee requests. Rather, much like disability accommodations, it’s an interactive, collaborative process.
It’s interactive because employees have obligations, too. An employer can’t read their employees’ minds and know exactly how, where, and when to accommodate diverse religious views and needs. An employee needs to make clear that they’re seeking an accommodation. Keep in mind that they don’t have to say “accommodation,” like it’s a magic word. All an employee needs to do is let their employer know that they have a religious belief and that they need some assistance to try to abide by their faith while at the same time performing the functions of their job.
Usually, religious accommodations arise from conflicting circumstances. An employee may say, “I can’t participate in this task because it clashes with my religious,” or, “I can’t work that shift because I’m observing a religious holiday.”
As an employer, you don’t need to accommodate everything—especially if you can show that the requested accommodation poses a significant cost or fundamentally undercuts the nature of your business operations. Instead, these issues should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
One critical question in determining religious accommodations is whether the individual’s religious belief is sincerely held or not. For example, if an employee makes a request not to work on Saturdays, because they say that their religion does not permit them to work on Saturdays, but it you find out that the employee is taking off Saturdays to attend college football football games, the religious belief is not a sincerely held one. In that kind of circumstance, you may be permitted to deny the accommodation—but, again, there’s no single template or test to separate the authentic religious beliefs from the spurious ones.
Religious Accommodation Request Best Practices
Although each request for religious accommodation is unique, employers can follow a general plan of action to ensure they’re meeting their legal obligations.
Next up: at-will relationships. Check back soon for the next installment of this series!