Tag Archives: employer responsibilities

Religious Accommodations in The Workplace: What are Your Responsibilities?

Today’s globalized and diverse world has created a working environment where there’s often a melting pot of religious beliefs and affiliations. As a result, there are a growing number of religious accommodation requests and religious discrimination cases within the workforce. In fact, this is the third-fastest growing type of discrimination case — and the number of charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has increased by nearly 50% since 1997.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your business stays compliant with relevant laws and regulations concerning religious accommodations and avoid discriminating against employees because of their religious beliefs. Here are some important details you need to know.


Title VII

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted to prevent employers from discriminating against employees on several areas — one of which being religion. Under this law, employees must receive adequate accommodations to practice their religion as long as it doesn’t create any undue hardships for their employer. This basically means that as long as it doesn’t exceed a minimal burden on your business, you must provide accommodations even if an employee has only recently adopted their religion or if it’s infrequently observed.


Defining Religion

The waters become a little murky when coming up with a formal definition for “religion.” According to the EEOC, Title VII defines religion very broadly. It includes traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. It also includes religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, or only held by a small number of people.

As a result, it isn’t always easy to know which accommodations are based on religion and which are simply employee preferences. When you break it all down, “a practice is religious if the employee’s reason for the practice is religious.” For example, if an employee needs to have Sundays off to observe their Sabbath, this would be because of religious practice. However, if an employee wants to have Sundays off to spend time with family, this wouldn’t qualify.


Employer Responsibilities

Your primary responsibility is to provide religious accommodations to your employees. Some examples include:

  • Creating exceptions to your dress code policy if employees wear special attire to observe their religion
  • Granting time off to observe religious holidays
  • Excusing employees from religious-themed events such as Christmas parties

Another big responsibility is to never discriminate against employees based on their religious beliefs (e.g. firing someone because you don’t agree with their religious practices.) You must also ensure that employees aren’t victims of harassment. For example, you and other staff should never make comments that could be deemed as offensive.

Finally, you’re not allowed to segregate employees for a reason that’s based on their religion. An example would be moving someone from a front-of-house position to a back-of-house position because they wear certain religious garb. You can learn more about proper employee accommodations from the EEOC.

Due to the increasing number of religious discrimination claims against employers, this is a topic you’ll definitely want to familiarize yourself with. Doing so should prevent any unnecessary lawsuits and create a better overall working environment where employees are sensitive to one another’s religious beliefs.

Photo by The Urban Scot

Healthcare Reform in 2015: Employer Responsibilities

Employers in the twenty-teens are dealing with some major changes set in place by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010. This massive healthcare reform has altered the way that employees receive healthcare, and it’s critical for employers to understand what these changes entail. Here are some of the main employer responsibilities associated with the reform so you can ensure that you remain compliant.


Employer Share Responsibility Provisions

As of January 1, 2015, any employer with 50 or more full-time employees will be responsible for offering employees the chance to enroll in an employer-sponsored healthcare plan or the employer may receive a penalty. The catch is that this doesn’t necessarily mean that there has to be 50 full-time employees. Instead, there can be a combination of full-time and part-time employees as long as the hours equal that of 50 full-time employees.

So for example, you could have two part-time employees whose combined hours are equivalent to a one full-time employee. If you are wondering what number of hours constitute as full-time, the IRS states that “a full-time employee is an individual employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.”


Requirements for Large Employers

Businesses with more than 50 full-time employees are classified as a large employer. When they fall into this category, they must adhere to the PPACA’s guidelines or may be liable for an employer shared responsibility payment. However, smaller businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees are not required to offer employer-sponsored health coverage. They are exempt and don’t have to worry about any backlash stemming from the PPACA.


Non-compliance Penalties

According to the IRS, an employer can be penalized because of one of the following scenarios:

  • They don’t offer health coverage or offer coverage to fewer than 95% of their full-time employees and the dependents of those employees, and at least one of the full-time employees receives a premium tax credit to help pay for coverage on a marketplace.


  • They offer health coverage to all or at least 95% of their full-time employees, but at least one full-time employee receives a premium tax credit to help pay for coverage on a marketplace.

In terms of specifics, a large employer that fails to offer health insurance coverage will be responsible for paying a $2,000 penalty each year for every full-time employee beyond the first 30 if they have one or more employees who receive subsidized coverage from the marketplace. In the event that en employer does offer insurance, they will be required to pay $3,000 annually for every full-time employee who is offered coverage, but receives a premium credit to buy insurance from the marketplace.

While the PPACA serves multiple purposes, one was to make it meet the increasing demands of employers wanting employer-sponsored health coverage. The problem is that all of the details can be difficult to understand, and some business owners may be unaware of their employer responsibilities. And although it won’t affect smaller business owners, it’s important to stay up-to-date on PPACA regulations and stay compliant.

Photo by Damon Sacks