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Religious Discrimination in Employment: General Counsel Listening Sessions Final Report

January 2021

https://www.eeoc.gov/religious-discrimination-employment-general-counsel-listening-sessions-final-report

 

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Dear Colleagues and EEOC Stakeholders:

We live in a pluralistic society with people of widely diverse faith traditions. Religious freedom for all is part of our country’s bedrock, from the enactment of our Constitution to the establishment of our more recent statutes that protect against religious discrimination.

In the United States we permit one another to hold whatever religious beliefs one chooses, even where those beliefs may offend others. Title VII requires that employers not discriminate against applicants or employees because of their religious beliefs, observances, or practices and that employers accommodate religious beliefs, observances, and practices, absent undue hardship.

The primary purpose of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is to prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination, including, expressly, discrimination on the basis of religion. I have prioritized understanding whether the EEOC may be able to better help individuals who have experienced employment-related religious discrimination.

Throughout my years practicing employment law, the variety of religious discrimination stories that I heard made me curious about the types of religious discrimination charges EEOC receives and about the types of religious accommodations employees request. To what extent did employees request time off for prayer or Sabbath observance? To what extent did they seek exemption from grooming or dress codes? To what extent did they seek to avoid participation in hot-button practices like abortion or LGBTQ celebration? I had only a bit of anecdotal evidence.

When I arrived at the EEOC, I realized there was not an easy answer to these questions. Consequently, I established a Religious Discrimination Work Group to look more closely at the full span of religious discrimination claims with a goal of better understanding the various forms of workplace religious discrimination and improving the Agency’s response. One of the Work Group’s initiatives was to gather and listen to stakeholders discuss the religious discrimination their members and clients face. We thank those who participated in one of our four listening sessions, which enabled us to hear from groups representing a rich diversity of religions.

Our goals are to improve religious discrimination awareness for employees and employers; encourage meaningful dialogue between employees, employers, and the government; and reaffirm EEOC’s commitment to prevent and remedy unlawful religious discrimination. Through listening to those with different beliefs and experiences, we can better learn how to work well alongside those with whom we disagree. This understanding will help us fulfill the goal of religious freedom and equal treatment for all in the workplace.


                                                                        Sincerely,

                                                                        Signature of General Counsel Sharon Fast Gustafson
                                                                        Sharon Fast Gustafson
                                                                        General Counsel
                                                                        Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

 

 

Dear Colleagues and EEOC Stakeholders:

It was a tremendous pleasure to be able to participate in the General Counsel’s listening sessions on religious discrimination within my first month as a new Commissioner of the EEOC.  The listening sessions were fruitful conversations about this critical issue, and I am grateful to all the stakeholders and agency staff who participated.  As I shared with session participants, it is my hope to make the protection of religious liberty a signature issue during my time at the agency.  

As many have recognized, the need for unity in our deeply polarized country has never been more important.  But unity cannot come at the expense of diversity.  We must find a way to be unified despite strongly held disagreements, not unified through uniformity.  We live in a pluralistic society, and that is one of America’s strengths—that out of many people with many diverse backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs, we nonetheless are one country. 

Likewise, the EEOC is charged with protecting employees from discrimination on many bases, all of which must be taken equally seriously.  But as I shared in the listening sessions, I am deeply concerned that today, religious liberty has become a disfavored or second-class right in many areas of our society and culture.

The EEOC’s pursuit of its mission to protect workers against religious discrimination furthers, in a very practical and real way, this Nation’s founding commitment to religious liberty.  Of course, the EEOC is not charged with upholding the constitutional right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment, but with protecting against employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  Nonetheless, given the wide impact the private sector has on citizens’ daily lives—including the fact that most employees work for private employers—I view the EEOC’s task as a critical part of ensuring that our commitment to religious liberty actually flourishes in our country. 

I believe that the fastest way to suppress religious believers’ ability to live out their beliefs in the marketplace and participate fully in society, the fastest way to encourage people to either discard their beliefs or retreat to isolated silos, is to condition people’s livelihoods on hiding, denying, or suppressing the exercise of their religious beliefs in their workplaces.  As a practical matter, what good would it be to many people of faith that the government does not infringe on their right to free exercise, if freely exercising their faith means that they effectively cannot pursue their preferred livelihood or worse still cannot hold a job because of the policies and actions of private employers?

I am proud of the work that the EEOC has done to defend against religious discrimination and to advocate for religious accommodation.  But more work remains.  After listening to stakeholders in the recent sessions, I am all the more convinced that employers, employees, and the general public need to be reminded that religious discrimination in employment in fact is just as odious as discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and other characteristics protected by statutes enforced by the Commission.  Religious discrimination is always unacceptable—whether against an employee who is a member of a minority faith, an employee of any religion whose faith requires them to take a minority position at odds with popular culture, or other employees.

My hope is that these listening sessions represent just the start of renewed efforts for the EEOC to lead in this space.  I look forward to collaborating with the General Counsel, other agency staff, and EEOC stakeholders to continue this important work, including by responding to the issues and ideas raised by listening session participants.

                                                                        Sincerely,

                                                                        Signature of Commissioner Andrea K. Lucas                                                                      

                                                                        Andrea R. Lucas
                                                                        Commissioner
                                                                        Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

Listening Sessions Discussion

Participants shared examples of religious discrimination in the workplace that their members or clients experience

Participants shared their experiences interacting with the EEOC

Participants discussed the lack of awareness about religious discrimination rights and obligations, and the need for training and guidance

In Closing

Appendix A: Listening Session Participants

Appendix B: EEOC Resources

 

Introduction

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and transgender status), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and genetic information.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) protects applicants and employees from religious discrimination in hiring, firing, promotions, training, wages, and benefits, as well as from a hostile work environment. Title VII also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person for complaining about discrimination, filing a charge of discrimination, or participating in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. The law requires that employers reasonably accommodate applicants’ and employees’ sincerely-held religious observances and practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.

The General Counsel at the EEOC oversees and conducts the EEOC’s litigation. Her office works with the investigatory and enforcement side of the EEOC to develop cases and promote conciliation and settlement. In May 2020, General Counsel Sharon Fast Gustafson formed a Religious Discrimination Work Group to assess whether there are practical or legal impediments that prevent individuals from filing complaints of religious discrimination with the EEOC. The Work Group is comprised of EEOC attorneys, deputy directors, investigators, data analysts, and training and outreach liaisons from across the country.

The Work Group was formed in part to build on a 2016 initiative led by the White House and Department of Justice to promote religious freedom and combat religious discrimination. See Combating Religious Discrimination Today: Final Report. There, a diverse group of religious leaders, civil rights advocates, academics, and government officials reported a lack of awareness by both employers and employees about religious discrimination. They also reported that individuals hesitate to report employers’ religious discrimination for fear of retaliation.

In November and December 2020, the General Counsel’s Religious Discrimination Work Group, in partnership with Commissioner Andrea Lucas, conducted four virtual listening sessions that focused on religious discrimination in employment (“Listening Sessions”).  In advance of each session, EEOC officials invited a diverse group of stakeholders, including religious leaders, nonprofit organizations, civil rights advocates, and health care professionals, to participate in one of four virtual meetings (“Participants”). Participants included representatives from a range of religions and perspectives, including, among others, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs. A full list of organizations that participated is detailed in Appendix A.

During the Listening Sessions, General Counsel Gustafson and Commissioner Lucas discussed the EEOC’s efforts on behalf of individuals facing religious discrimination in employment. In addition, each participant was invited to share experiences of their members or clients and offer input during smaller breakout sessions on how the EEOC can improve its development and litigation of religious discrimination claims.

The Listening Sessions yielded a robust discussion about the state of religious freedom and religious discrimination in employment. Participants also shared suggestions on how EEOC can better prevent and remedy employment discrimination on the basis of religion. In this Report, we set forth participant comments organized by subject—addressing issues from religious accommodations for religious garb to concerns about retaliation and forced participation. We have sought throughout this Report to capture faithfully, without attribution, the participants’ input, examples, and suggestions. The inclusion of these in this Report does not reflect and should not be read as agreement by the EEOC.

Listening Sessions Discussion

Participants shared examples of religious discrimination in the workplace that their members or clients experience.

General religious discrimination workplace considerations.

Listening Session Participants suggested that religious claims have changed over the years and now encompass a wider variety of issues, which reflect the diversity in the workplace. One Participant referenced a survey of religious accommodation cases, showing that minority faiths have a larger share of religious accommodation cases and suggesting that those of minority faiths are disproportionally impacted by the religious accommodation standards than those of larger faith groups. A number of Participants shared that many religious minorities hold “traditional” or religiously orthodox values and that this is often overlooked in workplace discussions of diversity and inclusion.

Many Participants mentioned that a need for various accommodations arises from religious employees adhering to their beliefs and articles of faith. Some Participants shared that their members experienced fewer problems with Sabbath and religious holiday accommodations in metropolitan areas where such practices are more common and that white-collar employers are often more flexible than others (with the exception of highly unionized workplaces). Some Participants explained that employees are at times hesitant to request an accommodation because of the potential or perceived conflict with workplace safety issues. Numerous Participants agreed that a broad definition of religion that includes observances and practices is necessary to protect religious expression.

Religious accommodations for observance, including Sabbath, holidays, and prayer.

Listening Session Participants expressed the opinion that, although new accommodation issues have arisen, more conventional accommodation requests related to Sabbath and religious holiday observance remain important. One Participant shared that most religious accommodations that his organization sees are still for the Sabbath and religious holidays. Participants agreed that observance accommodations are particularly difficult to request during the hiring process (see fuller discussion below).

Religious accommodations for appearance, including clothing and grooming.

Listening Session Participants shared that their members often need accommodations for “appearance” issues. Examples shared include: beards and side locks for Hasidic Jews; modest clothing for Orthodox women; and turbans, uncut hair and beards, and steel bracelets for Sikhs. Participants shared that some Orthodox women receive comments from their bosses (who may or may not realize they are wearing modest clothing for religious reasons) that they should dress more stylishly. Participants also shared that pre-COVID, Sikhs had issues with fast food industries that told them they had to shave their beards and could not wear their steel bracelets, even while allowing medical accommodations for the same or similar instances. Similarly, a Participant shared an example of an employee that was fired after the employer learned he would not cut his facial hair, which was worn for religious reasons, in violation of the grooming policy.

Currently, during COVID, members in the medical or health care context are being told to shave their facial hair to fit N95 face masks (other masks exist but are significantly more expensive). This was despite the fact that one Participant organization stated they were willing to subsidize the more expensive masks for their religious members. Another Participant shared that some employers believe that it is an undue hardship to provide an alternative to a N95 mask, such as a PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator), because of the expense. The Participant thought the employers would willingly spend a similar amount to accommodate a disability without objecting to it as an undue hardship. Participants observed that denial of these accommodations has increased with COVID, and that employees are often transferred to different positions instead of being accommodated in their current positions.

Some Participants explained that individuals face employer discrimination in the context of federal and state regulations. For example, truck drivers have had to submit to federally required hair drug testing that requires the hair to be cut or removed in violation of religious beliefs and practices. Other individuals have been required to remove their turbans to wear a hard hat to comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

Religious accommodations to avoid forced participation.

Listening Session Participants mentioned several situations where employees are pressured or forced to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs, including: vaccinations, abortion procedures, providing transgender drugs for children, and trainings on diversity, inclusion, or sensitivity that require Participants to affirm certain practices or beliefs. One Participant referenced a survey revealing that health care professionals have experienced religious discrimination, hostility, and failure to accommodate issues at work. Regarding vaccinations, some employers and laws mandate vaccinations, and Participants fear that there will be increased conflicts with an anticipated COVID vaccine. Regarding trainings, Participants shared that their members fear being required to agree with a workplace policy or position that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs. A number of Participants expressed concern that after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock,[1] if an employee does not want to participate in Pride events or use preferred pronouns that violate their religious beliefs, the employee will be accused of being a bigot, not being an ally, or creating a hostile work environment.

Concerns over religious expression inside and outside the workplace.

Listening Session Participants asked what religious expression rights employees have at work and how employees of minority religions or those with unpopular religious beliefs are able to safely express their religion at work. Some Participants shared that their members are afraid to express their religious beliefs that conflict with a majority viewpoint for fear of losing their jobs. Participants said that some employers have policies that restrict private conversations regarding religious topics, which has a chilling effect on religious employees, making them uncomfortable to mention religious activities, such as attending a religious service or singing in a religious choir. Participants shared that employees have faced workplace discrimination for expressing religious views about marriage and sexuality after being invited to join conversations on those topics.  Participants also expressed concern about their members and clients being punished for exercising their religion outside the workplace in matters that may contradict company values. One Participant shared that members of certain professional organizations that adhere to religious or traditional values have experienced workplace discrimination for being members of those organizations and that some have even resigned membership under pressure from their employers.

Retaliation and fears of retaliation.

Listening Session Participants explained that fear of retaliation and actual retaliation are problems among their members or clients. Some Participants shared that, because of this fear, members or clients hesitate to file or choose not to file charges of discrimination.  One Participant explained that even professionals experience the fear of retaliation, citing a survey of doctors who indicated that they were afraid to assert their rights. Another Participant shared that health care professionals have been discriminated against, including in training, hiring, promotion, or discharge, because of their resistance to forced participation (as referenced above). The Participant also explained that health care professionals in academia are told they cannot speak about their values if they want to advance professionally. Several Participants noted that many employees do not want to create bad feelings with their employers by asserting rights or filing charges, often preferring to negotiate to maintain good relations with the employers. Several Participants noted that some employees accept severance packages in exchange for giving up their rights to assert claims of discrimination.

Concerns over a hostile work environment based on religion.

Listening Session Participants shared concerns about their members experiencing a hostile work environment based on religion. The Participants explained that a hostile work environment may be created by an employer’s attitude that protecting employees on the basis of religious belief is not as important as protecting employees on other bases, such as race or sex. Some Participants voiced concern that employer safety or non-discrimination trainings can result in religious employees feeling like they have to keep their heads down and try not to be noticed for their sincerely-held religious beliefs that do not align with the employer’s policies or training.

Religious discrimination claims may raise intersectional concerns.

Listening Session Participants noted that religious discrimination can overlap with other forms of discrimination. One Participant indicated that his organization sees more Sabbatarian cases from racial minorities in blue-collar jobs. Participants speculated that employees in white-collar environments receive more religious accommodations because those employees are harder to recruit.  

Concerns that the undue hardship “more than de minimis” standard hurts religious employees.

Many Listening Session Participants expressed the view that the “more than de minimis” standard applied by the courts to determine whether an accommodation is an “undue hardship” is legally incorrect and is an obstacle to employees receiving religious accommodations. Participants voiced concern that employees cannot win a religious accommodation case because the de minimis defense is a low bar that is easily met by employers. This in turn discourages employees from bringing charges or cases. Participants urged the EEOC to weigh in before the U.S. Supreme Court against the de minimis standard and encouraged the EEOC to articulate an undue hardship definition that would replace the de minimis standard. A number of Participants raised concerns about whether an employer could establish an undue hardship if an employee does not align his or her beliefs with a corporate image or corporate values—such as may occur when an employee has an objection to participating in, supporting, or pledging allegiance to a particular position or issue.

Exemptions for religious employers.

While the focus of the Listening Sessions was primarily on religious employees, several Participants raised concerns related to religious employers. Some Participants explained that certain religious employers are very aware of religious freedom protections in Title VII as hiring is core to living out their religious missions.  Participants asked for guidance and clarification on the reach of Title VII’s religious organization exemption and on the roles of employers and employees in determining whether an employee is a “co-religionist” or is actually following the tenets of a religion. One Participant referenced a case where a Catholic school teacher violated Catholic doctrine, but the court ruled that the religious exemption did not apply because both the teacher and the school were Catholic. In this context, several Participants voiced the importance of a broad definition of religion to include observance, behavior, and practice for the employee.

Some Participants voiced concern about the lack of awareness of state officials and EEOC investigators regarding Title VII’s Section 702 exemption for religious employers, which requires interplay with other claims of discrimination. One Participant called on the EEOC to clarify how far Title VII allows investigators and courts to  pursue a charge if a religious exemption is claimed, suggesting that the government should resolve the applicability of the religious exemption on the front end, allow for bifurcation of claims and discovery when necessary, and only proceed to the merits if the court is unable to determine early on whether the Section 702 exemption applies. That Participant also raised concerns over lengthy litigation that leads organizations to lose meritorious cases because they cannot afford the defense, citing one particular case where the investigation was burdensome on the religious organization. Participants suggested that EEOC involvement in these issues through amicus briefs on procedural matters would be helpful to the courts.  Participants also requested updated guidance on the ministerial exception after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Our Lady of Guadalupe,[2] and the implication from a recent lower court case holding that the ministerial exception may not apply to harassment claims.

Participants shared their experiences interacting with the EEOC.

Concern over EEOC’s commitment to religion discrimination charges.

Although one Participant urged EEOC to avoid creating a solution in search of a problem, a number of Listening Session Participants expressed concern that the EEOC prioritizes claims of race and sex discrimination over religious discrimination. Some Participants shared that their members do not view the EEOC as friendly to their religious beliefs. Others said that they did not perceive “an open door” existed at the EEOC. One Participant voiced concern about comments Commissioners have made in the past that the Participant viewed as derogatory towards certain religious beliefs. One Participant said that EEOC’s “enthusiasm” about charges of religious discrimination was “inconsistent.”

Mixed experiences with the EEOC.

Listening Session Participants reported mixed experiences with the EEOC. Several Participants reported a good experience working with the EEOC, citing a positive finding for a client or a successfully mediated case. Some Participants expressed their belief that EEOC investigations are very good.

Others shared that, in their experience, investigators are not trained to deal with the complex issues related to religious discrimination. Some Participants observed that religious discrimination charges are sometimes not fully investigated unless a religious organization reaches out to a supervisor to lobby for attention. One Participant gave an example of how the organization was unable to connect with an EEOC office and had to send a representative to drive to the office to speak with someone in person. Another Participant suggested that a greater focus needs to be made on a prompt resolution process.

Even with respect to EEOC interactions with religious organizations in general, reported experiences were mixed.  Some Participants shared that Commission officials have spoken at the organizations’ conferences or meetings. Another shared that this was the first time the organization had met with EEOC officials despite meeting with officials at other government agencies. One Participant who has represented a religious group for over 30 years shared that this is the second time in those three decades that the EEOC has reached out to that religious group.

Participants discussed the lack of awareness about religious discrimination rights and obligations, and the need for training and guidance.

Employees and employers lack knowledge of rights and obligations.

Listening Session Participants agreed that many of their members or clients do not know or understand their rights and religious protections under Title VII. Several Participants concurred that although most employees are aware of their employer’s generic antidiscrimination policy, they are not aware that Title VII protects against religious discrimination in the workplace. One Participant shared that employees often seek protection under the First Amendment instead of Title VII. Several Participants suggested that many employees—especially blue-collar and lower paid white-collar employees—do not understand their rights. Several Participants shared that employers do not understand their obligations under the law and, as a result, engage in inadvertent discrimination. A number of Participants stated that employers often do not know or understand the law as it relates to religious discrimination and often view religious accommodations as a way of being nice and helping the employee, rather than as a legal obligation.

Employees and employers lack knowledge of EEOC’s role and resources.

Listening Session Participants reported that many do not know that the EEOC is tasked with preventing and remedying religious discrimination in employment. One Participant expressed surprise that the EEOC protects religious accommodations for employees. Participants expressed surprise that they can request training from the EEOC. Several other Participants reported being unaware of Commissioner charges, which allow a Commissioner to initiate investigation of allegations of employment discrimination.

Need for more and clearer “lay” guidance on religious discrimination.

Listening Session Participants said that more guidance and education from the EEOC on religious discrimination would be helpful to employees. Participants stressed that religious discrimination training and outreach should also extend to employers. Numerous Participants thought clear and concise “fact sheets” of essential information for employees and employers are needed, including a way to contact EEOC if more information is desired. A number of Participants suggested the EEOC provide a more user-friendly website, written materials that are more accessible to non-attorneys, updated email addresses available to the public, and materials employees can provide directly to a new employee. One Participant said he would like to see EEOC publish information on religious discrimination as it did in a previous EEOC report that included comic strips published in multiple languages. Another Participant referenced DOJ efforts under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act that have been helpful in raising awareness of rights under that law.

With regard to more formal guidance, many Participants voiced excitement about the impending updated EEOC Guidance on Religious Discrimination, pointing out that the old Guidance was out of date. A few Participants, however, were concerned that the timeframe for public input was not long enough. A number of Participants also expressed the opinion that it would be helpful if the EEOC could issue opinion letters or file amicus briefs on open legal questions, including procedural issues.

Need for more guidance on requesting religious accommodations during the hiring process.

Listening Session Participants agreed that religious discrimination against applicants during the hiring process poses unique problems. Participants indicated that during the hiring process many religious applicants are afraid to tell the employer about their religious observance and the actual or potential need for an accommodation. Participants noted that applicants are also unsure when the appropriate time is to request a religious accommodation—whether during the interview process or after a job offer is made. Participants explained that electronic applications that require an applicant to record their availability before an interview is even granted typically do not take into consideration an employer’s legal obligation to provide a religious accommodation. They noted that applicants fear that if they voice the need for a religious accommodation they will not be hired, but if they wait to request a religious accommodation, they will face retaliation or be accused of not being honest for not mentioning it sooner. For example, if an applicant who observes the Sabbath is asked whether he or she can work weekends, the answer is yes, but not all time periods during the weekend.

 Participants suggested that EEOC develop guidance to clarify when applicants and employees must disclose the need for a religious accommodation. A Participant shared as an example that one state has guidance that employers must have disclaimers on applications that state: “We want to know about your non-protected availability.”

Need for more guidance after Bostock on the intersection between religion and sex discrimination.

Listening Session Participants voiced concern over the implications of Bostock on religious employees and religious employers and asked that the EEOC provide clarification about the intersection of protection from religious discrimination and from sex discrimination. Participants shared that there is an assumption that religious employees’ and employers’ rights are diminished post-Bostock and stated that it would be helpful for the EEOC to emphasize that religious employees and employers can maintain their religious beliefs and convictions.

A number of Participants stressed that members of their religious communities want to live at peace with their neighbors, but it is crucial that those who hold traditional views of marriage and sexuality based on their religious beliefs be protected. Other Participants stressed that it is important to make sure that the rights of LGBT people are protected. Several Participants emphasized that all rights can be protected, that we should “turn down the temperature,” have respect with integrity, and that “tolerance is a two-way street.”

Need for more guidance on the application of RFRA in employment discrimination context.

Listening Session Participants asked if EEOC believes RFRA may supersede Title VII, and if so, in what circumstances. Some Participants suggested that RFRA provides protection for religious employers in the employment discrimination context, while others suggested that RFRA should not be applied in the employment discrimination context or in a way that allows individuals to impose their religion on others. A number of Participants were concerned that minority faiths be protected within a majority context. Some Participants were concerned that certain groups are trying to take away religious liberty protections, citing cases where individuals who hold religiously orthodox views on marriage and have no ill intent towards others who view marriage differently, were targeted by lawsuits.

More training and outreach needed on filing charges.

Listening Session Participants indicated that they need more information on best practices for interacting with the EEOC and on how to bring charges effectively. Participants asked what and how much information about their religion should be provided to the investigator during intake, how much information about a religious claim or practice should be given during the charge filing and investigation process, and how their members can find out whether they have a good claim that should be filed with the EEOC. Some Participants suggested that EEOC Investigators should be trained on religious exemptions and on basic tenets of their religions.

EEOC and religious groups should educate as Community Partners.

Listening Session Participants suggested that EEOC partner with religious groups to educate employees and employers, pointing out that many groups have connections across the country and issue publications and podcasts.  Participants shared that they could include education on religious discrimination in their membership training and publications. One Participant suggested that EEOC partner with outside organizations to conduct a workplace survey, citing a 2013 survey by Tanenbaum.  A number of Participants stated that the listening sessions were helpful and that their colleagues would be interested in opportunities to engage with EEOC.  Many Participants encouraged EEOC to lead by example or provide guidance to other government agencies and the military on how accommodation claims can be resolved.

Development of religious resource or affinity groups at corporations.

A number of Listening Session Participants shared that there is a movement in corporate America to create a faith-friendly workplace, believing that if employees of faith feel unwelcome, employers will lose out on good employees. Many corporations have resource groups for various protected groups (e.g., ethnicities, LGBTQ, veterans, women, etc.), but not for religious employees. Because religion intersects with corporate diversity and training, some corporations have started employee resource groups related to faith and have focused on religious holidays. Several Participants shared their perspective that creating a company culture receptive to employees with diverse religious beliefs protects against religious discrimination and also benefits the corporation.

In Closing

Listening Session Participants openly shared their concerns and suggestions. They provided EEOC employees with valuable insights related to the religious discrimination affecting the communities the Participants represented. The Listening Sessions highlighted the need for public education on EEOC’s role in preventing and remedying religious discrimination and on the legal rights of employees and obligations of employers. Finally, the sessions suggested the importance of the EEOC’s role as a leader in navigating complex fact patterns and potentially conflicting views or rights.

 

Appendix A: Listening Session Participants

Dates: November 17, 2020; November 18, 2020; November 19, 2020; December 8, 2020

EEOC Participants: Office of General Counsel; Office of Commissioner and Vice Chair Sonderling; Office of Commissioner Lucas; Office of Field Programs; Office of Federal Operations.

Stakeholder Participants: A significant number of stakeholders representing a range of religious, nonprofit, and advocacy organizations were invited. The Listening Sessions were attended by the following organizations:

Agudath Israel of America
Alliance Defending Freedom
American College of Pediatricians
American Muslim Health Professionals
Anglican Church in North America
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Center for Workplace Compliance
Christian Legal Society
Concerned Women for America
Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Family Research Council
First Liberty Institute
Freedom Forum
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Global Centurion Foundation of Virginia
Hindu American Foundation
Interfaith Alliance
International Society on Krishna Consciousness
Islamic Medical Association of North America
KAMARAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights
Muslim Advocates
National Association of Evangelicals
National Institute of Family Life Advocates
National Sikh Campaign
Orthodox Union
Pacific Justice Institute
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Religious Freedom and Business Foundation
South Asian Bar Association of North America
Sikh Coalition

Appendix B: EEOC Resources

The EEOC is committed to actively enforcing Title VII, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of religion (and other bases). Individuals who believe that they are a victim of discrimination in employment based on their actual or perceived religion (or any other protected category) should contact the EEOC.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Phone: (800) 669-4000
The American Sign Language (ASL) Video Phone Line: (844) 234-5122
Email: info@eeoc.gov
Website: www.eeoc.gov
Charge Filing Information: www.eeoc.gov/how-file-charge-employment-discrimination
Field Office Locations: https://www.eeoc.gov/field-office
Outreach Program Coordinators: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc-outreach-program-coordinators

EEOC Materials on Religious Discrimination:

 

[1] Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020).

[2] Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, 140 S. Ct. 2049 (2020).