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Equal Rights Division Newsletter - January 20, 2022

Accommodating religious beliefs in the workplace

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act states that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee or prospective employee because of that person's religious beliefs. The Act also requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs, as long as providing an accommodation does not create an undue hardship for the business.

religious accommodation image

Workplace modifications and undue hardship

Under the Act, an employer is not required to make more than a minimal modification to the terms and conditions of an employee's job when providing accommodations for religious beliefs. Any accommodation requiring more than minimal modification on behalf of the employer is considered undue hardship, and therefore, not required by the employer.

For example

An employer establishes a new dress code that requires employees to wear logoed shirts. However, employee, Ann's religious beliefs prohibit her from advertising for any business, including logos on her clothing. Ann feels that wearing a logoed shirt violates this belief, so she asks her employer for a reasonable accommodation.

To accommodate Ann's religious beliefs, her employer decides that only customer-facing employees must wear a logoed shirt. And since Ann's position doesn't require her to interact with customers, she isn't required to wear the logoed shirt.

Ann's fellow employee, Bob, has the same religious beliefs as Ann, but Bob works in a customer-facing position. The employer accommodates Bob's religious beliefs by allowing Bob to hand out logoed pens rather than wear a logoed shirt.

The employer removed the conflict between Ann and Bob's religious beliefs and their job duties by making minor modifications to the dress code -- this is an example of reasonable accommodation.

Know Your Rights

While the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations of employees' religious beliefs, it does not require employers to make more than minimal modifications to do so. Additionally, employers are not required to provide the exact accommodation requested by an employee.


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