Be proactive by putting policies in place to handle religious accommodation requests. Many times workplace issues (not even necessarily lawsuits and complaints) arise because someone does not know how to handle a religious accommodation request and it gets bungled. One way to help prevent such issues is through policy-creation.
- Develop internal procedures for receiving and processing religious accommodation requests. Try to take the guess work out of it.
- Include a policy statement in your handbook telling employees that you will make reasonable efforts to accommodate their religious beliefs and practices.
- Employers need to be flexible with dress code and grooming requirements and policies. These can be enforced to a point, but be aware that conflicts may arise and accommodations may need to be provided as a result.
Train Your Manager and Supervisors
Be proactive by training your managers and supervisors on your internal procedures if you have them in place. If not, at least provide training on what a religious accommodation request looks like and how they should be addressed.
Assess Each Request Independently
Take each religious accommodation request seriously and assess each one individually. This sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
If you need further information from the employee, ask. If you have questions, you should ask them and not base an assessment of an employee's request on partial information. Be sure to understand what the employee's religious belief is, what the specific workplace requirement is that conflicts with the religious belief, and how the workplace requirement conflicts with the religious belief. Have the employee explain it to you.
Before You Deny, Look for Alternatives
Proactively come up with alternative accommodations if you intend to deny the specific religious accommodation requested by the employee (also be sure to explain the reason(s) for the denial if that is your intention). Work with the employee to find an effective solution to the conflict between the employee's religious belief and the workplace requirement.