Breaking News: We have received word that Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski has signed the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act (SB 786).
SB 786 requires employers to make credible attempts to accommodate religious holy day observance and religious dress. Prior to SB 786, employers in Oregon could make only the bare minimum effort to meet accommodation requirements. This bill will be a step forward in clarifying the responsibility of employers to their religious employees.
The bill had been under fire this week from some religious organizations who promoted the idea that WRFA was designed to prohibit teachers from wearing religious dress. In reality the bill had left an 80+ year prohibition on religious dress by teachers in the public schools in place after a 2007 version of WRFA had failed because it had eliminated the requirement.
House Speaker Dave Hunt who championed WRFA has pledged to work to remove the educational restriction next term, and RLTV will be very supportive of those efforts. Currently Oregon and Pennsylvania are the only states that have prohibitions on any religious dress by teachers.
The Federal WRFA bills, brought over the course of more than a decade would provide a much broader range of religious practices than simply dress or religious garb, however the ACLU and other groups have expressed concerns that overly broad requirements provide no real guidance to employers and could potentially create hostile work environments. Although this was not necessarily a realistic assessment of the effects of WRFA, the federal bill which gained bipartisan support from key legislators such as Hilary Clinton, John Kerry, John McCain, and Elizabeth Dole still faced stiff opposition.
While the Oregon bill may not be all inclusive, it will provide religious employees who face the most common problems of holy days and garb an opportunity to keep their jobs and their faith. Other issues will be addressed through existing channels under the pre-SB 786 standard and may provide opportunity for clean-up legislation later.
For more information on the bill, visit https://dd1.f06.myftpupload.com/tag/sb-786