ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland State Legislature is presently considering a state-level Workplace Religious Freedom Act” (HB 381). The bill, currently working its way through the House where it was heard on February 10, 2010, addresses employee requests for observance of holy days.
In his testimony on February 10, 2010, Alejandro J. Beutel, Government Liaison Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, D.C., wrote, “this bill will move the balance between proper workplace accommodation and the legitimate concerns of businesses in the right direction. It seeks to better fulfill Maryland’s strong commitment to religious liberty without jeopardizing our communities’ economic prosperity – a laudable and achievable goal.”
This bill which focuses on holy day observance is significantly different from the identically named federal Workplace Religious Freedom Act that has been proposed throughout the decade and the recently passed Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act which addressed both holy day observance and religious dress. The Maryland bill also indicates that labor union contracts would trump the individual requests of employees for accommodation if there is a conflict. Also, the bill would provide specific economic relief for the employee in the event that he or she is compelled to work on a holy day in violation of his or her beliefs.