Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) instructs employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees to observe religious holidays. The act requires compromises from both the employer and employee. Communication is a necessity when implementing an accommodation policy to alleviate unclear messages and allow maximum participation.
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is one of the five branches of the military, and the only branch falling under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (United States Coast Guard, 2015a). The USCG’s focus is on national security, maritime safety, and environmental protection (2015a). The composition of the USCG’s workforce is a mixture of military, civilian, and contract employees. The USCG is accountable for following guidelines outlined in Title VII because it is a federal employer (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d.).
Religious Accommodation Policy
The USCG recognizes the rights of military and civilian personnel to practice their religion of choice, or no religion at all, if it does not interference with the USCG’s mission or safety to personnel and the community (United States Coast Guard, 2015b). The USCG supports making reasonable accommodations for personnel to participate in religious practices within the confines of Title VII and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) guidelines. Requests outside this policy and the scope of Title VII and the EEOC’s guidelines require a waiver submission to the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center (CG PSC).
The definition of religion per Title VII and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (n.d.) is:
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...offer an opportunity to ask questions.
Words and phrases needing approval from senior and executive management are religion, reasonable accommodation, undue hardship, sincerely held, de minimis, and good faith. Defining the terms will remove policy ambiguity. In addition, approval from senior leadership will also communicate support for the policy, which in return has a positive influence on lower levels of leadership (O 'Reilly, Caldwell, Chatman, Lapiz, & Self, 2010).
Reasonable accommodation for religious observances requires compromise from both the employer and employee. Although the employer must make an effort to accommodate an employee’s request to observe a holiday, Title VII does not trump the employer’s mission or safety requirements. Communicating written policies will reduce uncertainty and will allow maximum participation.
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