A Transfer to a Comparable Position Is a Religious Reasonable Accommodation
An employer is obligated only to provide a reasonable accommodation that works, not necessarily the one the employee wants – and in this case, the offer of a transfer met that obligation.
In Bailey v. Metro Ambulance Services, Inc., the employee was offered a position as a paramedic. The employer required its emergency transport paramedics to be clean shaven in order to ensure the proper fit for self-contained breathing apparatus masks. The employee had a goatee as part of his Rastafarian religious practice, which he declined to shave. The employer offered him a position as a non-emergency transport paramedic, which did not require the use of masks, at the same pay. The employee argued that he could shave in a way that allowed him to keep his goatee while using the mask, insisted he would only work emergency transport, and sued for failure to accommodate.
In rejecting the employee’s claim, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit observed that, under Title VII’s religious accommodation obligation, an employer must show that it offered a reasonable accommodation or that no reasonable accommodation is available without undue hardship. As long as it offers an accommodation that eliminates the conflict between the employee’s religious need and the employment requirement, it has met its obligation under Title VII – and it is not obligated to offer the employee’s preferred accommodation. Here, the offer of transfer to the non-emergency position at the same rate of pay and hours was an effective accommodation. Although the employee deemed the position less desirable, he offered no evidence that such, in fact, was the case.