Oregon Law Requires Workplace Religious Accommodations

August 27, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - In July, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed into law the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act, according to news reports.

Oregon Senate Bill 786 requires employers to allow an employee to use vacation leave, or other leave available to the employee, for the purpose of allowing the employee to engage in the religious observance or practices of the employee. In addition, the bill says employers cannot impose an occupational requirement that restricts the ability of an employee to wear religious clothing, to take time off for a holy day or to take time off to participate in a religious observance or practice.

Under the bill, employers are excused from providing accommodations for religious leave or dress if it will impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of the employer – meaning it requires significant difficulty or expense. Factors to be used in determining whether an accommodation requires significant difficulty or expense include the nature and the cost of the accommodation needed; the overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in the provision of the accommodation; the number of persons employed at the facility; the overall financial resources of the employer; the type of business operations conducted by the employer; and the safety and health requirements in a facility.

The bill did make an exception by saying no teacher in any public school shall wear any religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher, and that a school district, education service district or public charter school does not commit an unlawful employment practice by reason of prohibiting a teacher from wearing religious dress while engaged in his or her duties.

The bill is here .