A Balancing Act
corporations in all aspects of employment law for more than 40
years. Following 25 years as a name partner in his own firm, he is
now Of Counsel to Ganfer & Shore, LLP, where he heads the firm's
labor practice. He also has taught labor law for many years as an
adjunct professor at the New York University School of Law and the
University of Iowa School of Law.
360 Lexington Avenue
New York, New York 10017
of 1964 ("Title VII")
discriminate against any individual
with respect to his compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of employment,
because of such individual's religion,
imposes parallel duties on employers to
reasonably accommodate their employees'
religious practices, including proselytiza-
of religious harassment.
While there is no "bright line" test to
guide employers, over the years judges
have fashioned a number of commonsense
rules for balancing the competing interests
of religious proselytizing and maintaining
a workplace free of religious harassment,
discussions of religious beliefs, or even
proselytizing them, is permissible,
meaning people of other religions),
that it is unwelcome.
criticizing them for "ungodly, shameful
conduct" is not permissible if it vio-
lates the employer's anti-harassment
policy, even where an employee claims
that her religious belief requires her to
write the letters.
workers by sending unsolicited e-mails
ing of a public prayer would violate
Title VII unless its content denigrated
other religious beliefs or attendance
Christian belief," where there is no
"actual imposition on co-workers or
disruption of the work routine" are
threatens to impede the employer's
provision of effective and efficient
services is impermissible.
integrate its own religious beliefs and
practices into the workplace, and run
its business according to religious
business meetings or training sessions,
absent a showing of undue hardship,
Title VII requires the employer to ac-
commodate employees who ask to be
excused for religious reasons.
than 150 years ago, that "[m]an is em-
phatically a proselytizing creature,"
employers, maintenance of the balance be-
tween accommodation of some employees'
religious beliefs and practices, including
stepped-up proselytizing, and their co-
workers' right to be free of any perceived
religious harassment, will continue to
require a nuanced approach to achieving
the correct balance, as well as a number of
Here, the Equal Employment Op-
portunity Commission's suggestions are
eminently practical. Employers, it recom-
ruption posed by religious expression
in the workplace, rather than merely
speculating that disruption may result;
accommodations that might be offered