Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations Applauds US House Inclusion of Religious Accommodation Protection in “Whistleblower” Protection Law; Hopes for Positive Precedent on Broader Religious Accommodation Legislation
Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America applauded leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives for including a provision protecting and promoting religious accommodation in the federal workplace for federal employees. The provision, added to the bill by a Republican motion and supported by the Democratic leadership (resulting in a positive vote of 426-0) incorporates into the scope of whistleblower protection “Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace” issued by President Clinton in 1997. The Guidelines are designed to ensure that civilian employees of the federal government are afforded protection of and accommodation for their religious beliefs and practices within their workplaces.
The Guidelines do not create any new rights or privileges for federal employees, but ensure that current laws that protect religious employees are properly understood and respected within the nation’s largest employer. The Guidelines protect the personal religious expression of employees so that, for example, a Jewish employee may wear a skullcap and a Christian employee a crucifix so long as other considerations that would equally prohibit the wearing of similar non-religious items are not present. Also, the Guidelines require a federal agency to “accommodate employees’ exercise of their religion unless such accommodation would impose and undue hardship on the conduct of the agency’s operations.” Thus, for example, an agency must adjust work schedules to accommodate an employee observing her sabbath if an adequate substitute is available.
UOJCA director of public policy director Nathan Diament stated:
The Orthodox Jewish community applauds the House’s effort to ensure that religious federal employees are better protected in situations of conflict between the demands of their faith and the demands of their jobs. The community applauds the leadership of the House that made the vote today happen and hopes that the many House members supporting this provision will join in the effort to extend similar protections to all American workers by supporting the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (HR1431) that was introduced in Congress last week by a broad bipartisan coalition led by Reps. Carolyn McCarthy, and Mark Souder.