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Posted May 12th, 2014 in Legal Insights

Religion and Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace

As the American workforce continues to diversify, employers sometimes struggle with handling religious accommodation requests, such as prayer breaks and time off for certain holidays. This can be especially tricky in manufacturing environments where work stoppages by a few are more likely to affect other employees, the quality of the final product, or possibly worker safety. Recent case law offers some clarity on what are deemed reasonable good faith efforts to accommodate employees. In EEOC v. JBS USA, LLC, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argued that an employer failed to reasonably accommodate its Muslim employees during Ramadan. The U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska ruled in favor of the employer, finding that an “undue hardship” had been demonstrated in two ways: the requested accommodation created more than a de minimis cost to the employer, and more than a de minimis imposition on coworkers. Veena Iyer, a labor and employment attorney with Nilan Johnson Lewis, notes that there is no “one size fits all” solution for employers. Dialogue is critical, and having a specific set of questions to ask employees who are making religious accommodation requests can also be helpful. The key, Iyer says, is to ensure that a reasonable effort is made to work with employees in these unique circumstances. “With Ramadan beginning at the end of June this year, this is a particularly good time for employers with large populations of Muslim employees to review their processes for considering religious accommodations,” she says. Contact Veena Iyer at (612) 305-7695 or

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