EEOC Adds to Compliance Guidance on Religious Discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a new Compliance Manual Section regarding workplace discrimination on the basis of religion. The section includes a comprehensive review of the relevant provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the EEOC's policies regarding religious discrimination, harassment, and accommodation. The agency also issued a companion question-and-answer fact sheet and best practices booklet. All three documents are available at www.eeoc.gov.

The new section addresses what constitutes "religion" within the meaning of Title VII; disparate treatment based on religion; the requirement to reasonably accommodate religious beliefs and practices; religion-based harassment; and retaliation. The section also provides guidance on the sometimes complex workplace issues involved in balancing employees' rights regarding religious expression with employers' needs to maintain efficient, productive workplaces.

EEOC issued this section in response to an increase in charges of religious discrimination, increased religious diversity in the United States, and requests for guidance from stakeholders and agency personnel investigating and litigating claims of religious discrimination. Religious discrimination charge filings with the agency have risen substantially nationwide over the past 15 years, doubling from 1,388 in Fiscal Year 1992 to a record level of 2,880 in FY 2007.

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