Friday, August 19, 2005

The Workplace Religious Freedom Act

Currently, employers must "reasonably accommodate" an employee’s request for religious accommodation, unless doing so would cause “undue hardship” on the company. Even a minimal cost or difficulty can be considered "undue hardship." Therefore, many employers make little effort to accommodate religious workers.

The proposed Workplace Religious Freedom Act would raise the “undue hardship” standard and require employers to accommodate employees’ religious requests unless doing so would involve "significant difficulty or expense." The Act has been backed by Right and Left political groups and has been said to prevent employees from being forced "to choose between dedication to the principles of their faith and losing their job because their employers refuse to accommodate certain needs."

Sounds great, but what about those employees who aren’t religious or who are attacked by religious groups? Would these employees be at a great disadvantage? For example, take into consideration the recent firing of a born-again Christian man named Matt Barber by Allstate after Barber wrote an essay against homosexuals, apparently using his work computer to write the essay. Unfortunately for Barber, he did not quote any Biblical scriptures in his essay, thus probably weakening his religious argument. However, even if he had done so, under the current law Allstate may rightfully claim that Barber’s minimal use of his work computer and time at work was an undue hardship on the company. Under the WRFA, Barber could probably be allowed to regularly write anti-homosexual articles during work as long as it did not incur "significant difficulty or expense” on the company. Barber could also opt under the Act to not work with a gay or lesbian employee because of his religious beliefs.

So would the WRFA unjustly favor religious employees? Would the Act be unfair to atheists or agnostics who would be denied opportunities that only religious employees may take advantage of, such as being able to use their work time for religious purposes or having their position reassigned due to their religious beliefs?

"If the pink slip doesn't fit,
get redressed!"
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