Religious Accommodations: New Standards

Type: Article
Topics: School Administrator Magazine

June 01, 2024


Everyone knows that school districts have a legal obligation to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and practices, but figuring out how to apply that doctrine in practice can be challenging.

Say a Jewish teacher asks for the day off to prepare for her family’s Passover seder that evening. The holiday doesn’t begin until sundown, but she tells you she’s cooking for 30.

Is the duty of reasonable accommodation strictly limited to religious obligations that don’t significantly affect school operations (like religiously required clothing or headwear) or does it extend to activities that are not mandatory but religiously inspired?

At what point does an accommodation become unreasonable because it imposes too great a hardship on your district?

The legal guidelines from our courts on these issues always have been somewhat fuzzy, and a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court last term involving a Pennsylvania postal worker has made them even fuzzier.

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