A previous post on this blog reminded Rhode Island employees that their employers cannot discriminate against them based on the sincerely held religious persuasion.
However, even though outright religious discrimination and harassment are illegal, it is important for Rhode Island residents to understand exactly what this looks like in practice.
On the one hand, an employer must allow employees reasonable freedom of worship and religious expression; however, an employee cannot use his or her religion as a way of getting excused from every rule of the workplace, particularly when those rules pertain to safety or another legal obligation which the employer must follow.
Generally speaking, an employer need only offer a "reasonable accommodation" to an employee who has deeply held religious beliefs. Moreover, an employer does not have to provide any accommodation to an employee's religious belief if doing so would create more than a "minimal burden" on the employer.
What this means is that an employer does not have to lose money, compromise its quality or safety standards or allow a religious person to tread upon the rights of others simply to prevent allegations of workplace discrimination.
Trying to figure out whether an employer has to accommodate a person's religious beliefs is often a complicated and tricky question. After all, an employer can almost always come up with some reason why a religious accommodation would be burdensome on the employer's business. This is why Rhode Island employees who feel their employers have not been fair when denying them a religious accommodation should consult with an experienced employment law attorney.
An employee has the right to practice his or her own religion without being discriminated against or harassed at work. However, employers do not have to cater to all of the religious needs of their employees.