|Effective Date:||Expiration Date:||Chapters:|
|March 22, 2022||When Superseded||1 2 12|
The D.C. Department of Human Resources promotes workforce diversity and fosters an inclusive work environment as part of its equal employment opportunity commitments. As part of these commitments, DCHR requires all agencies under its authority to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs, observances, and practices of their employees upon request. Agencies must grant an employee’s request for a religious accommodation unless granting the accommodation would create an undue hardship as described in this issuance. This issuance provides agencies guidance on reviewing and processing employee requests for a religious accommodation.
A religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow an employee or applicant to practice their religion. An employee is eligible for a religious accommodation if their sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances conflict with their work requirements, unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship. Religious accommodations might include an exemption from a dress code that would otherwise prohibit an employee from wearing a religious head covering; or, from a work schedule that would otherwise interfere with an employee’s ability to attend religious services.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines “religion” very broadly. A religion includes traditional organized religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Native American religions, and Unitarian Universalism, and includes religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, or only held by a small number of people. Social, political, or economic philosophies, or personal preferences are not considered religious beliefs under federal law.
A sincerely held religious belief may be a theistic belief or a non-theistic moral or ethical belief as to what is right and wrong that is held with the strength of traditional religious views. Given the broad scope of sincerely held religious beliefs, agencies may be unfamiliar with the specific beliefs, observances, and practices that are protected. For this reason, agencies should ordinarily assume that an employee’s request for a religious accommodation is based on a sincerely held belief.
Nevertheless, there may be times when an agency has a reasonable basis for questioning either the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief, observance, or practice. Factors that may undermine the credibility of an employee’s assertion of a sincerely held religious belief, either alone or in combination, include:
While the instances above may undermine the credibility of an employee’s assertion of a sincerely held religious belief, none of these factors are dispositive. While prior inconsistent conduct is relevant to the question of sincerity, an individual’s beliefs, or degree of adherence, may evolve overtime, and therefore an employee’s recently adopted or inconsistently observed religious practice may still be sincerely held.
CAUTION! Agencies should also not assume that an employee is insincere because some of their practices differ from the commonly followed tenets of the employee’s religion, or because the employee adheres to some common practices, but not others.
Employees who request an accommodation for their religious beliefs or practices may make the request by:
Unless otherwise established by the Director of DCHR, agencies shall process all religious accommodation requests. Agencies should process requests for religious accommodations by completing Part 2 of the Religious Accommodation Request Form and making determinations on a case-by-case basis in consultation with agency legal counsel, as appropriate.
Upon receipt of an accommodation request, agencies should:
If denied a religious accommodation, an employee may first consult with the agency designee who made the initial determination to request reconsideration.
If unresolved, for complaints related to a failure to accommodate a religious belief, practice, or observance, DC government employees must first consult a certified agency EEO Counselor within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act (or discovery thereof) prior to filing a complaint with the Office of Human Rights (OHR). If the matter is not resolved at the agency level, once the EEO Counselor issues an employee an “exit letter,” they may file an official complaint with OHR. For more information on filing a complaint with OHR, go to ohr.dc.gov.
Issued by Interim Director E. Lindsey Maxwell II, Esq., D.C. Department of Human Resources on March 22, 2022, 1:24 p.m.