Connie Rehm, 51, worked as a library assistant in a small Missouri town, attending the same Lutheran Church where she married her husband more than 30 years earlier. Edward Rangel, 23, waited tables in Bellevue, Wash., practicing the Kemetic religion, an obscure modern revival of an ancient Egyptian faith.
While the two appear to have little in common, they both symbolize the same dramatic trend in workplace culture. And both of their employers landed in court, charged with religious discrimination.
"Entrance into a dialog with the employee is the most important thing you can do," Glickson says. "Be respectful. Don't show bias or hostility and examine each request case by case."
"I don't think employers take religious accommodation seriously enough," says Darlene Smith, of counsel at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. "If you had an employee with a disability, you would go through the interactive process of discussing accommodation options and documenting each step. You want to do that here, too, whether you permit the accommodation or not."
Abramson notes that religious accommodation can backfire if it goes too far and results in harassment. For example, if prayer meetings are held at the worksite, the employer should ensure those not participating don't feel harassed or discriminated against.