A Hobson's Choice Model for Religious Accommodation

61 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2006

See all articles by Jamie Darin Prenkert

Jamie Darin Prenkert

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law; Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law

Julie Manning Magid

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law

Abstract

Employers are sometimes required by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to accommodate the sincere religious practices and observances of their employees. That requirement is often ineffective for employees who seek accommodations. Explanations of that ineffectiveness typically focus on the permissive undue hardship defense; however, the problem is as much a result of an unbounded definition of sincere religious belief, practice, or observance as it is a failing of the undue hardship standard itself. Furthermore, courts have been too solicitous when plaintiffs attempt to turn run-of-the-mill disparate treatment claims into accommodation claims. Instead of amending Title VII to modify the undue burden standard as has been proposed in Congress, the reasonable accommodation requirement can be reinvigorated by utilizing it only in situations where a religious employee is faced with a true Hobson's choice between a sincere religious practice or observance and a religion-neutral, generally applicable work rule or policy. This paper describes the Hobson's Choice Model for religious accommodation claims by arguing for strengthening the sincerity review and strictly separating accommodation from traditional disparate treatment claims and using examples of cases involving religious expression.

Keywords: Title VII, religious accommodation, religious discrimination, employment discrimination, equal employment opportunity

JEL Classification: J71, K31

Suggested Citation

Prenkert, Jamie Darin and Magid, Julie Manning, A Hobson's Choice Model for Religious Accommodation. American Business Law Journal, Vol. 43, No. 3, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=918530

Jamie Darin Prenkert (Contact Author)

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law ( email )

Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law ( email )

Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Julie Manning Magid

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Business Law ( email )

Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
317-274-2275 (Phone)
317-274-3312 (Fax)

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