Sorting Out Religious Discrimination Vaccination Exemptions

Among the numerous details to work out when crafting required vaccination policies is when an employee cites religious objections and requests an exemption. Recently, the 8/30/21 edition of starnewsonline.com published an article by John Staton that reports on the Wilmington Symphony’s decision to deny a musician’s religious exemption to their required vaccination policy.

The article includes the following statement about when an employer isn’t required to accommodate religious belief requests:

At any rate, by law employers don’t have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs if they can show the accommodation would compromise workplace safety.

While there’s no reference, it’s likely referencing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) regulations on religious discrimination.

Disclaimer: What is a blog post about a legal topic without a disclaimer? This is not legal advice. You should not be getting your legal advice from a blog post. The purpose of this post is to give you things to think about before taking action. Speak to a lawyer about specifics.

The EEOC includes the following information about when employers do not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. I’ve highlighted the portions that appear to have made it into the Start News Online article.

Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship

An employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.

The EEOC issued updated and expanded technical assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic in May, 2021 that provides additional guidance on this exact issue.

Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations.

With the number of orchestras adopting policies that require staff and musicians to be vaccinated on the rise, it shouldn’t be unexpected to see a few more instances of religious exemption requests begin denied.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

GET SOCIAL

1.8kFriends
4.2kFollowers
975Followers
7.2kSubscribers
14.3kFans Love Us

TWO WAYS TO SUBSCRIBE BY EMAIL:

weekly summary subscription
every new post subscription

The Performing Arts Org Vax Policy Database

Find vaccination requirements by organization and sector along with policy links and a form to add your organization to the database.

Add Your Org

Sorting Out Religious Discrimination Vaccination Exemptions

Send this to a friend