By Brian Kreissl
Mention the duty to accommodate and most HR professionals immediately think of accommodating employees with disabilities. Indeed, it can be easy to forget the duty to accommodate can arise with respect to any protected ground under human rights legislation.
One of the most important grounds for accommodation is religion. This is certainly an area that causes a lot of hand-wringing, but what should employers actually do in meeting and exceeding their obligations in this regard?
To begin with, religious accommodation normally includes at least the following types of modifications:
•Providing time off for religious holidays or time away from work to attend prayers.
•Changing schedules to accommodate Sabbaths and holy days.
•Providing breaks and prayer rooms (or at least a quiet place to pray).
•Making changes to dress codes or uniforms.
•Dealing with dietary restrictions by allowing menu options when food is served in the workplace.
The above types of modifications can be thought of as the bare minimum with respect to accommodating religious differences. This can be done by consulting with employees and developing appropriate policies and programs. But in order to move beyond mere compliance with human rights legislation, it’s best not to think of the workplace as a “religion-free zone.”