In response to a significant increase in religious discrimination charges over the past 15 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently adopted a new compliance manual section on religious discrimination.
In addition to discussing statutory definitions of religion and the court-developed “ministerial exception” to Title VII coverage, the manual covers topics like defenses to religious bias claims, employers’ obligations to accommodate religious beliefs and practice absent undue hardship, and potential conflicts among employees regarding religion. The EEOC has also published a “best practices” list for employers on its website.
The EEOC’s compliance manual does not affect the federal regulations on religious discrimination. However, employers may find the compliance guidance helpful, because it summarizes case law and points to areas where the EEOC’s interpretation of the law differs from federal court decisions.