Accommodating religious beliefs

Secularism and pluralism are two of the defining ethos of Western societies.

The former decouples religion from governmental institutions whilst the latter seeks to protect the rights of all citizens to freely practice their creed.

In many instances, these two concepts can happily coexist. To demand that some or all of the food offerings conform to your religious beliefs is unacceptable.

Problems however arise in one of two instances: 1) When the practice of one's religion seeps into the public sphere and in so doing violates the right of others to be free from religion (e.g., prayers in public spaces); 2) When the supposed private practice of one's religion harms third parties (e.g., withholding medical treatment from your child). This is an intrusion into the public sphere that is an affront to the definition of secularism.

In many cases, the BC Human Rights Tribunal has awarded individual employees thousands of dollars in lost pay and damages when an employer did not accommodate their religious (not spiritual) needs. Employers might be surprised to learn that companies must accommodate their employees’ religious needs to the point of undue hardship or face costly consequences.

In most cases, accommodation might be as simple as substituting another day off, with pay, to allow the employee to observe his or her religious holiday.

By Richard Voigt Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of religion and require that employers reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of employees as long as such accommodation does not create an "undue hardship" for the employer.

Historically, many of the cases alleging illegal religious discrimination have involved an employer's alleged failure to accommodate an employee's religious belief that he or she should not work on the Sabbath (a Saturday or a Sunday, depending on the religion).

For this reason, it is an excellent backdrop for discussing an employer’s obligations on accommodating religious … Continue Reading As an employment law nerd, I often get giddy when there is a meaty employment law issue being addressed by the U. Supreme Court (hopefully Justice Ginsburg took it easy on the sauce prior to oral arguments).If one wishes to forgo the protection afforded by secular pluralism then perhaps Western liberal democracies is not the right place for you to freely exercise your religion.The reflex of many well-meaning people is to argue that it is important to be "tolerant" and "accommodating." Secular societies establish tolerance by being equally non-accommodating toward all religious demands within the public sphere.Author Russell Zinn says in The Law of Human Rights in Canada: Practice and Procedure (Aurora, Ont.2004): "[S]o long as a complainant's beliefs are sincerely held and fall within the rubric of ‘religion’ broadly defined, the proceedings will move on to the next stage of inquiry.

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  1. 2015 a majority of Peers within the House of Lords defeated the Conservative Government’s plans to reform child tax credit by supporting two motions put forward by Peers designed to delay the implementation of the new regulations pending further information.