Honoring 42 Years of Mission Readiness
Religious Accommodation of Civilian Federal Employees
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis on religion. In 1972, the Act was amended to require that employers - including the federal government and military Services - attempt to accommodate religious practices, if doing so could be accomplished without detriment to the military mission or cause undue hardship to the civilian organization.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
What constitutes religious discrimination? The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers this overview.
On 22 July 2008, the EEOC published an updated Compliance Manual regarding religious discrimination in the workplace. This manual is intended for those charged with investigating claims of religious discrimination; it contains, however, a wealth of information useful to those who seek to know more about the reasonable accommodation of religious practices in the workplace. Of particular interest are Section 12-I, A (Definitions), in which a broad definition – or characterization – of religion is offered, along with discussion of what constitutes sincerely held religious beliefs. Also recommended is Section 12-IV (Reasonable Accommodation); within this section, p. 51 begins an explanation of what constitutes a reasonable accommodation, p. 65 outlines common methods of accommodating religious belief/practice in the workplace, p. 77 begins a discussion on prayer in the workplace, and p. 82 touches upon Christmas display items.
The White House Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace, issued in 1997, provide current guidelines for civilian federal employees that are clear, jargon-free, and offer numerous scenarios that illustrate requirements, restrictions, and possible solutions.
White House Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace
Federal employees are entitled to time off to observe religious holidays, exercises, and functions, as enumerated in 5 U.S.C. 5550a, Subpart J – Adjustment of Work Schedules for Religious Observances.
J – Adjustment of Work Schedules for Religious Observances
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has issued guidelines for its members that add clarity to Title 5.
OPM – Adjustment of Work Schedules for Religious Observances
In 1996, Congress enacted legislation that allowed for the use of peyote (a mild hallucinogenic drug) by Native Americans for sacramental purposes. Congress directed the federal government, including the military, to accommodate peyote use as an element of religious practice. This legislation applies only to peyote - no other hallucinogenic - and extends only to bona fide members of Native American tribal groups. The relevant text is contained in U.S. Code Title 42, Chapter 21, Subchapter I, § 1996a:
§ 1996a. Traditional Indian religious use of peyote