Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America — the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization representing nearly 1,000 congregations nationwide — applauded members of the U.S. Congress for the introduction of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (“WRFA”). The lead sponsors of this legislation, endorsed by a coalition of 45 diverse faith groups ranging across the theological and political spectrum, are Representatives Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Mark Souder (R-IN). The legislation will amend federal civil rights laws to reinstate protections for religious employees in their workplaces that have been undermined by adverse court rulings.
WRFA will require employers to accommodate the religious observances of their employees as long as providing such accommodations will not impose an “undue hardship” upon the employer and the accommodation does not impair an employee from performing the “essential functions” of a job. Thus, employers would be encouraged to afford employees flexible work shifts so that they may observe religious holy days and permit employees to wear religiously required garb at work. Employers would also be encouraged to accommodate “conscience clause” objections by employees, so long as such accommodation does not adversely affect other employees or customers or clients of the employer.
Other original co-sponsors of the legislation introduced on Friday in the U.S. House include: Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chet Edwards (D-TX), Zach Wamp (R-TN), David Price (D-NC), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). Senate introduction of WRFA is expected soon.
Nathan Diament, director of the Union’s Institute for Public Affairs and a leader of the diverse coalition of religious organizations supporting WRFA, issued the following statement:
Promoting religious liberty is the highest domestic policy priority for the Orthodox Union and its national constituency. The issue of religious accommodation in the workplace is a critical component of making religious liberty real for Americans of all faiths. Thus, we strongly support WRFA and deeply appreciate the leadership of Representatives Souder & McCarthy and their colleagues on this issue. We look forward to continuing our work with them and the diverse members of our coalition of religious communities to secure passage of this bill and ensure that no American is forced to choose between career and conscience.
For further information about WRFA visit http://www.ou.org/index.php/public_affairs/article_cat/C589/