What to do if you face antisemitism at work


Yesterday, the EEOC released a new fact sheet on “What To Do If You Face Antisemitism at Work,” which, according to this survey, is a relatively common occurrence.

Most of the fact sheet generally applies to any protected class. For example, the fact sheet states, “Title VII … prohibits workplace or job segregation based on religion (including religious dress and grooming). For example, an employer may not assign a Jewish employee to a non-customer contact position because of actual or assumed customer preference.” Similarly, an employer couldn’t assign someone over 40 to the storeroom rather than the retail floor based on customer preference.

Title VII also requires covered employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices — Jewish or otherwise — unless doing so would cause an undue hardship.

But, employers should be aware of specific accommodations unique to Judaism.

Accommodations can include schedule changes and leave for religious observances and exceptions to workplace dress or grooming policies or practices because an employee has religious reasons. For example, wearing a yarmulke or tzitzit (specially knotted religious tassels), observing a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (e.g., not wearing short skirts), or adhering to shaving or hair length observances (e.g., peyes or sidelocks).

You can find more information on “Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities” in this earlier EEOC fact sheet.

Did you know that Title VII applies to any practice motivated by a religious belief, even if other people may engage in the same practice for secular reasons? So, for example, if you have a grooming policy, you may need to distinguish between employees who don’t want to shave and those who don’t shave for religious reasons.

“Look policies” are fraught with employment litigation risk, as a major retailer learned in 2015. In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the Supreme Court held that employers cannot refuse to hire applicants based on religious belief or practice, even if that individual does not explicitly request an accommodation. If an applicant can show that the employer based its decision not to hire them to avoid providing a religious accommodation, then the employer has violated Title VII.

But Title VII includes an affirmative duty to accommodate religious practices that request them. The Supreme Court is examining the undue hardship standard for refusing Title VII religious accommodations.

For more information to help your business address antisemitism in the workplace, check out this post from last November.

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