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Can Employees Pray at Work?

Books with names of major religions

Many people consider themselves very religious and practice their beliefs everywhere—even at work. However, some religions have strict rules regarding dress and prayer, and these rules may conflict with your work duties.

If you are religious and want to practice your religion in the workplace, you generally should be allowed to do so as long as it does not place an undue hardship on the employer. However, this is something you should discuss with your employer so you both are on the same page regarding your religious beliefs and what is expected of you.

What about prayer in the workplace? What if you want to pray at your workstation or use a meeting room to pray by yourself or with others? Will you be able to take breaks as needed to pray as required by your religion? Will your employer allow it? If so, what will your co-workers think?

What the Law Says

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers must make a reasonable accommodation for employees who desire to practice their sincerely held religious beliefs and practices in the workplace. The only exception is if doing so would cause the employer a hardship.

What does this mean? It means employers should make adjustments as needed to try to accommodate the employee’s request. These adjustments may include flexible scheduling, frequent breaks, job reassignments, substitutions and modifications to workplace policies or procedures.

While employers cannot suppress religion in the workplace, they can deny religious activity that is deemed offensive or disruptive. For example, a quick prayer every hour would probably not hinder business activities. However, if the employee is asking to leave for two hours in the middle of the day—the busiest time for the company—to attend church each day, then this is something that could affect business operations and it would not be illegal for the company to deny this activity. Also, if the employees desire a meeting room for Bible study, for example, but the room is occupied almost all day every day, employers might have to suggest alternatives that would suit the employees’ needs.

If the employee’s religious accommodation is approved, the employee cannot be subject to discrimination or harassment by management or employees. This is considered illegal under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Contact New York Employment Law Attorneys

Employers must make reasonable accommodations to allow employees to practice their religious beliefs in the workplace. Treating an employee unfairly because he or she prays at work is a form of religious discrimination.

If you were fired or faced other adverse action for praying at work or practicing your religion in some other way, contact a lawyer to determine your next steps. The experienced New York religious discrimination attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can help you understand your rights and hold your employer accountable for workplace discrimination.  Contact our firm at (347)-464-8694 to schedule a free consultation.

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