The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization — hailed today’s introduction of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act in the U.S. Senate by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), John Kerry (D-MA) Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The legislation, known as “WRFA,” would amend federal civil rights laws to provide greater protection for religious employees in their workplaces.
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. Thus, for example, a Jewish sabbath observer or Seventh Day Adventist could elect to work more hours certain days of the week in order to take time off to observe his religious holy day later in the week.
At a Capitol Hill press conference marking the bill’s introduction, Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, issued the following statement:
For too many years, too many American workers who hold deep religious convictions have been asked to make the cruel choice between observing their faith and keeping their job. In various workplaces, Orthodox Jews have been pressed to work on Saturdays, Muslim women have been told to remove their head scarves and devout Christians have been told to punch-in on Christmas. In the land of religious freedom this situation is unacceptable. Years ago, congress acted to address this concern by including in the Civil Rights Act a provision insisting employers reasonably accommodate the religious needs of their employees where possible. But the courts have eviscerated this protection. WRFA will correct this state of affairs and reassert that in the United States one can be a productive employee and a faithful person. We should expect no less in the United States.