Defining Religious Discrimination in Employment: Has Reasonable Accommodation Survived Hardison?
Because the primary purpose of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the elimination of racial discrimination, not surprisingly the Act's legislative history left unclear the congressional intent of also including religion as an illegal ground for employment discrimination under Title VII. After 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)' and the courts struggled to interpret Title VII's prohibition of religious discrimination. In 1972, Congress amended Title VII to explicitly protect religious conduct, as well as beliefs, provided the employer might "reasonably accommodate" the conduct without "undue hardship" to his business.' In Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, however, the United States Supreme Court held that Title VII did not require an employer to accommodate employee Sabbatarian practices conflicting with the provisions of a bona fide seniority system. The Court interpreted the amended Title VII's "accommodation" provision narrowly, holding, under a reverse religious discrimination rationale, that employers need not accommodate religious employees if the accommodation would discriminate against other employees.' Regrettably, lower courts have oversimplified and inconsistently interpreted Hardison, once again confusing the measure of employers' duty in religious discrimination cases.
Randall J. Borkowski, Defining Religious Discrimination in Employment: Has Reasonable Accommodation Survived Hardison?, 2 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 343 (1979).
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