Despite the separation of church and state and the fact that the US does not have a an official religion, many people in this country continue to face discrimination based on their respective faiths. So much so that Chicago has a specific section of its Human Rights Ordinance dedicated to religious rights in regards to employment.

The section guarantees that no employer can refuse to accommodate the religious beliefs of current and prospective employees UNLESS the employer can show that respecting someone’s religious beliefs would cause “undue hardship” on how the business conducts itself. Call me sensitive, but in what situation would respecting someone’s religious beliefs cause so much hardship that the employer wouldn’t be able to properly follow the Constitution? I would think that since the ordinance requires the employee to give ample notification (five days) before a religious holiday, that any “undue hardship” could be predicted and corrected.

However, the ordinance does give examples of “reasonable accommodations” for religious holidays. The employee can:

  1. take a day of paid leave or vacation, where applicable under the employee’s employment agreement
  2. be excused from work without pay and without discipline or other penalty
  3. elect to take the day off with pay in order to practice the employee’s religious beliefs, and to make up the lost work time at a time and date consistent with the operational need of the employer’s business. Any employee who elects such deferred work shall be compensated at his or her regular rate of pay, regardless of the time and date at which the work is made up. The employer may require that any employee who plans to exercise option

So, the example solutions are not guaranteed or consistent. They depends on the employer. Someone who could get a paid day off at one company could switch jobs and then not get paid or even get the day off. Basically, someone with religious beliefs isn’t guaranteed their first amendment right to practice it, because it might cause monetary issues with the company. This wording is basically guaranteeing that only people of the same religion will work at one company. How are we, as a city/country, supposed to foster intercultural understanding and peace, if the respect of deeply held spiritual beliefs is not guaranteed?



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