Verdict underscores religious accommodation at work

Q&A with Mike Lauderdale

published in The Oklahoman | July 1, 2008

Employment law attorney and McAfee & Taft shareholder Mike Lauderdale was featured in The Oklahoman discussing a recent federal jury verdict in Arkansas that awarded $756,000 to two customer service technicians who said they were suspended and fired for attending a church convention.

Lauderdale said that employers are required  to “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s “sincerely held religious practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.”

“A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that would allow the employee to practice his/her religion,” Lauderdale said. “This could include accommodations such as flexible scheduling, voluntary substitution or swaps, job reassignments and lateral transfers, modification of grooming requirements and other workplace practices, policies and/or procedures.”

Based on this verdict, Lauderdale was asked what practical advice he could offer employers dealing with request for religious accommodations.

“An employer should ensure that it treats all of its employees in a fair and impartial manner. … Employers should attempt to make sure that they follow their past customs and practices unless there is a legitimate, defensible reason not to do so.”