Employment and religious rights of employees

Employers ought to respect and accommodate employees’ right to worship, to the extent that the worship does not “cause hardship in the conduct of the employer’s business” (Smith, n.d.). In some cases, employer’s business activities are restricted, in order to accommodate employees’ religious practices. Even though courts are not required to verify an employee’s bona fide religious beliefs, several contentious cases have created the need for the courts to determine whether employees’ claim constitutes a bona fide religious belief.

The U.S. Supreme Court fails to express a clear decision on the need to establish a prima facie case, due to complexities that might arise. However, EEOC has a provision on the need to establish a prima facie case, based on ‘Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’ (Evans, 2007).

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Through this Act, EEOC clearly states that “An employee establishes a prima facie case of religious discrimination by showing that the employee has a bona fide religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement, the employee informed the employer of this belief and that the employee was disciplined for failing to comply with the conflicting employment requirement” (Smith, n.d.). These elements are evident in U.S. Postal Service v Hoffman case.

In the U.S. Postal Service v Hoffman case, Mr. Hoffman’s claim indicates that the U.S. Postal Service violates his right to observe holy Sabbath, as the corporation requires him to work on Sundays. Being a Roman Catholic, Mr. Hoffman claims that he rightly deserves to be allowed to abstain from work on Sundays, since it is his day of worship.

Mr. Hoffman’s argument is based on Roman Catholics belief that Sunday is a Sabbath, a day in which people ought to abstain from work. In this case, Mr. Hoffman required the U.S. Postal Service to alter its shifts system to accommodate his religious beliefs. Thus, Mr. Hoffman argues that the corporation ought to exempt him from work on Sundays.

Initially, the high court had ruled in favor of the U.S. Postal Service, since the Corporation had argued that Mr. Hoffman had not established a prima facie case. The Corporation argued that abstaining from work on Sundays does not constitute bona fide religious belief amongst the Roman Catholics.

However, Mr. Hoffman’s appeal to EEOC overturned the high court ruling. In its ruling, EEOC determined that the U.S. Postal Services was at fault, since it based its argument on its own interpretation of the basic tenets of Roman Catholic. The EEOC ruled that Mr. Hoffman had established a prima facie case, in which he had clearly persuaded the EEOC that working on Sundays conflicted with his bona fide religious beliefs (EEOC, 2008).

EEOC further faults the U.S. Postal Service’s initial argument, on the basis that the Corporation ignored the fact that observance of Sabbath constituted Mr. Hoffman’s personal religious beliefs, which are closely associated with the basic tenets of Roman Catholicism. Therefore, Mr. Hoffman “had met his burden of presenting a prima facie case of discrimination” (Smith, n.d.).

The U.S. Postal Service v Hoffman is a model case in which an employer’s activities are restricted in respect to an employee’s religion. By ruling in favor of Mr. Hoffman, EEOC directed the U.S. Postal Services to alter the shifts program and exempt him from work on Sundays, which would allow him to observe his Sabbath. EEOC’s ruling shows that employers have a duty to respect employees’ freedom of worship, especially in cases where employees’ religion does not pose any harm to an organization’s activities.

Reference List

EEOC. (2008). Section 12: religious discrimination. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/religion.html

Evans, J. (2007). Religious accommodation in the workplace: can we strike a balance? ` Retrieved fromhttp://www.uri.edu/research/lrc/research/papers/Evans_Religious_ Accommodation.pdf

Smith, D. (n.d.). Workplace religious freedom: what is an employer’s duty to accommodate? A review of recent cases. Employment and Labor Law Journal. Retrieved from http://castle.eiu.edu/alsb/Archives/V10I1Fall2004/religious %20accommodation.pdf

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