By Eric B. Meyer
After scoring a touchdown against the New England Patriots on Monday night, Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah dropped to his knees and prayed.
As Kevin Draper at Deadspin.com reports, a tweet from Abdullah’s brother further confirmed that the player’s post-TD celebration was a Muslim prayer.
Lessons for employers from the NFL’s mistake
What can employers learn from the NFL’s mistake? Here are a few lessons on accommodating prayer in the workplace.
As discussed recently in a post, Title VII requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious observances of its employees unless it would create an undue hardship. A religious accommodation undue hardship is something more than a de minimis cost.
So, how can employers make sure that they get this right?
- Don’t waste much psychic energy questioning an employee’s religion. As long as an employee’s beliefs are sincerely-held, then the employee is covered under Title VII.
- Treat all religions equally. Tebow versus Abdullah. Christianity versus Muslim. One received no penalty; the other did. If you are going to allow prayer (or some other accommodation) in the workplace for one religion, allow it for all.
- Ban prayer altogether? Think again. Let’s suppose that a group of Muslim employees ask you for 15 minutes each day to pray to Mecca. If allowing 15 minutes is going to create a noticeable cost to you, then you don’t have to allow it. EXCEPT, if you allow other non-Muslim employees the time to pray, then, yes you do. Or, if you allow other non-religious employees 15-minute breaks to smoke or whatever, then, yes you do. There may be other instances in which a similar accommodation is appropriate too.
Don’t let the controversy surrounding the NFL’s blown call on Monday night — if only that were Roger Goodell’s biggest headache over the last month — create problems in your workplace, too.
This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.