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WHAT THIS GUIDE COVERS--
Employees sometimes find that a job requirement conflicts with their sincere religious beliefs. A federal statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, provides a way to resolve this conflict between religious beliefs and work requirements. This guide primarily explains how an employee can take advantage of his or her Title VII rights. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the constitutions of the various states and individual state statutes are other potential sources of protection which are not discussed here, or only discussed in a very limited way.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has a single purpose: to defend employees against the abuses of compulsory unionism. Although this guide discusses in general terms the rights of religious objectors under Title VII, the focus of this guide is to help employees who find a conflict between their sincere religious beliefs and the work requirement that they join or financially support a labor union.
AN INTRODUCTION TO TITLE VII--
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 places two obligations upon employers and unions regarding employees' religious beliefs. First, they must not discriminate against employees because of their religious beliefs. Second, they must reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs, unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship for the employer or the union.
The actual wording of the relevant parts of Title VII are as follows:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer--
to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms or conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 1
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for a labor organization-
to exclude or to expel from its membership, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
to limit, segregate, or classify its membership or applications for membership, or to classify or fail or refuse to refer for employment any individual, in any way which would deprive or to tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities, or would limit such employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee or as an applicant for employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
to cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against an individual in violation of this section. 2
The term "religion" includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee's or prospective employee's religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business. 3