On Decem­ber 17, 2012 Sen­a­tor John Kerry (D-MA) intro­duced “The Work­place Reli­gious Free­dom Act of 2013” (S.3686)   which would Amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to pro­hibit employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of reli­gion specif­i­cally in the areas of “garb, groom­ing, and scheduling.”

In 2005, in a rarely seen bipar­ti­san effort, Sen. Kerry joined with Sen. Rick San­to­rum (R-PA) to intro­duce the Sen­ate ver­sion and it was con­cur­rently intro­duced in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives by Mark Souder (R-IN), Car­olyn McCarthy (D-NY), Bobby Jin­dal (R-LA) and Anthony Weiner (D-NY). Sen­a­tor Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton (D-NY) and Sen­a­tor Ted Kennedy (D-MA) also lined up in support.

Ear­lier ver­sions of the leg­is­la­tion would have required employ­ers to make rea­son­able accom­mo­da­tion for an unde­fined range of reli­gious prac­tices and obser­vances. While a wide range of reli­gious groups wel­comed the leg­is­la­tion, the ACLU and some Cham­bers of Com­merce were con­cerned that the bill could be too broadly con­strued and require employ­ers to accom­mo­date prac­tices that have pre­vi­ously been rejected by the courts. Exam­ples included police offi­cers who had refused to pro­tect abor­tion clin­ics on reli­gious grounds and employee coun­selors who refused to coun­sel gay and les­bian workers.

The fed­eral bill has been rein­tro­duced since 2005 but it has not regained its pre­vi­ous trac­tion at the fed­eral level. How­ever, since then sev­eral states, includ­ing Ore­gon and Cal­i­for­nia have passed laws that address cases that most com­monly arise involv­ing reli­gious holy day obser­vance and reli­gious dress and grooming.

 

So far there are no co-sponsors listed on the bill. If you sup­port the Work­place Reli­gious Free­dom Act, please con­tact your sen­a­tor and ask that they co-sponsor S.3686. If Sen. Kerry is con­firmed as Sec­re­tary of State and leaves the Sen­ate, as expected, another sen­a­tor will be needed to move the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion forward.

 

We will con­tinue to watch the progress of the Work­place Reli­gious Free­dom Act of 2013.

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