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EEOC Updates Compliance Manual on Religious Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) maintains and periodically updates a Compliance Manual, an internal guide for EEOC enforcement personnel that contains the EEOC’s interpretation of Title VII and the other discrimination laws it enforces. Although the Compliance Manual does not have the force of law, it is a very helpful resource for employees and employers as it explains the EEOC’s approach to enforcing the discrimination laws. It also contains recommendations for employees on how to identify discrimination in the workplace and address it, as well as best practices to help employers to prevent discrimination.

The EEOC recently issued an updated section of the Compliance Manual on religious discrimination. According to the EEOC’s press release accompanying the new section, it issued the new 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.”

The new section contains a wealth of information on religious discrimination in employment, including material on:

• Avoiding religious discrimination in hiring, promotion and other employment decisions • Employer liability for religious harassment • Accommodating employees’ religious beliefs and practices in the workplace • Retaliation • Exemptions for religious-based institutions
The Compliance Manual also contains a number of employee best practices intended to instruct employees on the best ways to advise employers of their religious practices, how to resolve conflicts between those practices and work rules, and how to handle discussions about religious faith and proselytizing in the workplace.

Although the new section is long and extremely detailed, both employers and employees would be well served to read through it and lean how to avoid religious discrimination in the workplace and to deal with it once it occurs.

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