HR - Religious Accommodations Policy - MA & CA

Policy Statement and Reason

For the purpose of this policy, employees include Massachusetts and California faculty and staff unless otherwise indicated in the sections below. All provisions of this policy apply, except that for employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, this policy does not create any benefits not expressly provided by that collective bargaining agreement and if there are inconsistencies between this policy and the collective bargaining agreement, the terms of the collective bargaining agreement will govern. 

The College will strive in good faith to provide religious accommodations to employees in need of such accommodations due to their sincerely held religious practice and beliefs. Human Resources Business Partners (HRBP) in partnership with managers, Chairs and Deans, as appropriate, are responsible for managing religious accommodation requests. 

Policy Guidelines

Eligibility  

This policy applies to all faculty and staff employees.

Religious Accommodations 

Accommodations for religious reasons may include a change or adjustment to employees’ work schedules or work environments, or the adoption of College policies or procedures that enable employees to practice or otherwise observe sincerely held religious traditions or beliefs without causing undue hardship to the College.  

While not an all-inclusive list of religious accommodations, the following are examples of accommodations the College may make:

  • Time for prayer during the day
  • Time off for religious holidays
  • Adjustments to a work schedule to observe the Sabbath while continuing to meet business requirements.

Employee Requests for Religious Accommodations

The College is generally not obligated to seek out and determine faculty or staff employees’ need for religious accommodations. Therefore, the request for accommodations typically begins when employees disclose their need for religious accommodations, in writing, to their managers, chairs or deans, as appropriate, and their Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP).  The written Request for Religious Accommodation must include the following:

  • The reason for the request 
  • The religious accommodation requested, including frequency and any dates of the of the accommodation
  • Possible other options to the requested accommodation, if appropriate 

Once the written Request for Religious Accommodation is received, The HRBP will then meet with the employee and engage in an interactive discussion about the request. The HRBP will offer the manager, Dean or Chair the opportunity to participate in the meeting.  

The HRBP and manager, Chair or Dean will discuss the request and make a determination regarding the employee’s request. The determination will be sent in writing to the employee.  

Job Applicants and Religious Accommodations

Job applicants are responsible for requesting desired religious accommodations if needed during the interviewing and hiring process (e.g., alternative days on which to interview if the interview schedule falls on the Sabbath, time for prayer).  Applicants, hiring managers and search committee chairs should contact Human Resources with any questions. 

Human Resources, hiring departments and search committees will not ask applicants whether they need a religious accommodation. However, if applicants say they will need religious accommodations, the College may ask them about the specific accommodations needed. Hiring managers and search committee members must contact a HRBP before accepting or denying any requests for religious accommodations.  

Documentation 

If the College has a legitimate reason for questioning the sincerity or religious nature of a particular belief or practice for which an employee or applicant has requested an accommodation, an HRBP may ask an employee or applicant for information, including documentation, reasonably needed to evaluate the request. HR reserves the right to suspend action on accommodation requests until HR receives the information requested. 

Other Information 

Definitions

Undue Hardship

At times faculty or staff, or prospective faculty or staff may ask for an accommodation that is determined by the College to be unreasonable because it poses an “undue hardship” to the College.  Undue hardship to the College may exist where, among other things, the proposed accommodation 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.  Whether a particular accommodation will impose an undue hardship will be determined on a case-by-case basis.   In cases where a specific requested accommodation would cause an undue hardship to the College, the College will work with the individual requesting the accommodation to identify alternative, reasonable accommodations

Related Policies 

Responsible Officer

The Chief of Human Resources is responsible for this policy.

Key Offices to Contact 

Please contact Human Resources for further information regarding this policy and its implementation.

Links to Procedures or Forms

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The contents of this policy are informational only and are not conditions of employment. This policy does not create any contractual obligations or alter the at-will employment of the College’s at-will employees. Emerson College reserves the right to modify, revoke, suspend, terminate or change any and all policies and procedures at any time, with or without notice, as consistent with state and federal law.