by Ted Olsen
Although Title VII requires an employer to make reasonable accommodation for an employee's religious observances and beliefs, and the Americans with Disabilities Act requires an employer to make reasonable accommodation for an employee's disability, the term "reasonable accommodation" does not have the same meaning or impose the same legal obligations, under the two laws. A recent federal court case, EEOC v. Texas Hydraulics Inc., Case No. 1:06-cv-161 (E.D. Tenn. April 16, 2008), provides a reminder of one significant difference.
In Texas Hydraulics, an employee alleged that he was fired after he refused to work on his Sabbath. The Court, when denying the employer's summary judgment motion, rejected the argument that the employer was not obligated to offer a reasonable accommodation because the employee had not specifically requested an accommodation. Although the ADA requires disabled employees to request accommodation, Title VII does not - Title VII requires employers to act affirmatively to accommodate a worker's religious observances, when put on notice that those observances conflict with the terms of employment. No specific request for accommodation of religious practices is required.
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© 2008 Sherman & Howard L.L.C. May 6, 2008