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Are employees allowed to pray at work?

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Employment Law

The state of California has a diverse workforce. People of all religious backgrounds and creeds form a crucial part of the economy.

There are several benefits to having a diverse workforce, including increased productivity, innovative ideas and access to talent. Nonetheless, there are occasions when disputes may arise between employers and employees.

The California Workplace Religious Freedom Act protects the religious rights of employees. Does it allow employees to pray at work?

Reasonable accommodations

One of the key tenets of any religion is observance. Followers of a religion may have to wear certain garments, refrain from eating certain foods and pray at specific times of the day. An employer cannot interfere with any of these factors in an unreasonable way. If an employee needs to pray at certain intervals during the day, then this generally should be permitted. The only exception to this is if it causes undue hardship to the business. Allowing workers to pray is classed as a reasonable accommodation. Typically, employers must accept valid reasonable accommodation requests unless they are financially unviable.

What if the employer doesn’t like it?

An employer may not directly block a reasonable accommodation request for prayer time, but this doesn’t mean they won’t penalize religious observers in other ways. For example, a religious worker may find themselves landed with a disproportionately heavy workload compared to their colleagues. Or, they may be asked to come in every single weekend when nobody else is. When a religious worker is treated differently and in a negative manner compared to other employees, this may amount to discriminatory retaliation. This is unlawful and workers do not have to put up with it.     

If you have been denied a request for reasonable accommodations or have been treated differently because of your religion, it may be time to think about your legal options.

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