The deeply personal nature of religious belief has raised complex questions for workplace parties seeking to assess the sincerity of employees’ religious convictions, distinguish those beliefs from other personal views, and accommodate those beliefs in a broadly pluralistic society. Issues relating to religious belief have come to the fore as workplaces have grappled with implementing COVID-19 policies. In certain cases, these policies have conflicted with employees’ religious beliefs, political stances, and personal opinions. In this webinar, experts will provide guidance on key issues regarding the accommodation of religious beliefs in the workplace, including:
- How have “religion” and “creed” been defined by courts and human rights tribunals? Must a personal conviction bear a nexus with a broader shared system of belief to be considered religious in nature? Must employees demonstrate that their beliefs are consistent with established religious doctrine or the practices and beliefs of other adherents of the faith?
- How are religious beliefs to be distinguished from other beliefs, such as political convictions or personal preferences? How might this characterization impact the protection of the belief under human rights legislation?
- What factors have adjudicators considered in assessing whether an employee’s religious belief is sincerely held? What consideration has been given to behaviour by an employee which might appear to be inconsistent with that belief? If a belief is newly held by the employee, should that fact impact the assessment of the employee’s sincerity?
- What types of information or “proof” may employers or unions request to substantiate an employee’s religious belief or practice? Must the employee explain the significance of religious events to the employer to receive accommodation?
- Is every personal manifestation of an individual’s religion entitled to protection under human rights legislation, or is protection against discrimination limited only to certain significant aspects of an individual’s religious beliefs or practices?
- At what point will accommodating an employee’s religious belief constitute “undue hardship”? How might the employer’s and union’s legal obligations be impacted where an employee’sreligious belief conflicts with the competing rights of other workers?
- How should employers and unions respond ifaccommodation of one employee’s religious beliefs causes backlash or resentment from other employees?
- How may an employee’s religious beliefs impact their willingness to participate in a union, and how should unions respond? What obligations do unions bear in ensuring employees’ religious beliefs are respected and upheld?