WASHINGTON — Citing changing demographics and a steady increase in complaints from people of faith, a federal agency last week released an updated compliance manual on religious discrimination in the workplace.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the guidance after consultation with religious groups, employers, and labor organizations. The number of religious-discrimination charges reported to the agency has more than doubled over the last 15 years.
"The goal here is to promote voluntary compliance, to get everyone on the same page, to let them know what the law is," said David Grinberg, a spokesman for the agency. "We want to stop discrimination before it starts."
The new manual provides safeguards for workers who request time off for religious observances, and protects workers whose faith requires they wear specific religious garments, such as a hijab, a head covering worn by some Muslim women.
Muslims have faced the sharpest increase in workplace discrimination of any major religious in recent years. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of discrimination charges filed by Muslims more than doubled, from 398 to 907. That figure peaked at 1,155 in 2002, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Although religious-discrimination charges increased 13% nationally in 2007, Jews and Seventh-Day Adventists have both seen their total number of complaints decline in the past decade, while Catholics and Protestants have reported only a gradual increase. (MORE)