Excerpted from Hall Benefits Law blog.

On January 15, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated guidance to its Compliance Manual on Religious Discrimination, the first significant update since 2008.

In the updated manual, the EEOC provides important clarifications concerning Title VII religious discrimination laws in the workplace. These clarifications include the definition of “religion,” the types of organizations that qualify for the religious organization exemption, and when employers must make reasonable accommodations for religious reasons.

Definition of “religion.”
The updated manual makes it clear that employers must recognize that Title VII protects all approaches to religion, including a lack of religious faith. The manual states that “The non-discrimination provisions of the statute also protect employees who do not possess religious beliefs or engage in religious practices.”

Organizations that qualify for the religious organization exemption.
Title VII’s religious organization exemption permits “a qualifying religious organization to assert as a defense to a Title VII claim of discrimination or retaliation that it made the challenged employment decision on the basis of religion.” The new EEOC guidance makes it clear that no single factor is dispositive when assessing whether an organization qualifies for the exemption, including whether the organization is for-profit, which had been an exclusionary factor prior to the issuance of the new guidance.

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