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S. 1124 (105th): Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 1997

The text of the bill below is as of Sep 10, 1997 (Reference Change).


S 1124 RCS

105th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. 1124

To amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to establish provisions with respect to religious accommodation in employment, and for other purposes.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

July 31, 1997

Mr. KERRY (for himself and Mr. COATS) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

September 10, 1997

Committee discharged; referred to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources


A BILL

To amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to establish provisions with respect to religious accommodation in employment, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ‘Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 1997’.

SEC. 2. AMENDMENTS.

    (a) DEFINITIONS- Section 701(j) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e(j)) is amended--

      (1) by inserting ‘(1)’ after ‘(j)’;

      (2) by inserting ‘, after initiating and engaging in an affirmative and bona fide effort,’ after ‘unable’;

      (3) by striking ‘an employee’s’ and all that follows through ‘religious’ and insert ‘an employee’s religious’; and

      (4) by adding at the end the following:

    ‘(2) As used in this subsection, the term ‘employee’ includes a prospective employee.

    ‘(3) As used in this subsection, the term ‘undue hardship’ means an accommodation requiring significant difficulty or expense. For purposes of determining whether an accommodation requires significant difficulty or expense--

      ‘(A) an accommodation shall be considered to require significant difficulty or expense if the accommodation will result in the inability of an employee to perform the essential functions of the employment position of the employee; and

      ‘(B) other factors to be considered in making the determination shall include--

        ‘(i) the identifiable cost of the accommodation, including the costs of loss of productivity and of retraining or hiring employees or transferring employees from one facility to another, in relation to the size and operating cost of the employer;

        ‘(ii) the number of individuals who will need the particular accommodation to a religious observance or practice; and

        ‘(iii) for an employer with multiple facilities, the degree to which the geographic separateness or administrative or fiscal relationship of the facilities will make the accommodation more difficult or expensive.’.

    (b) EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES- Section 703 of such Act (42 U.S.C. 2000e-2) is amended by adding at the end the following:

    ‘(o)(1) As used in this subsection:

      ‘(A) The term ‘employee’ includes a prospective employee.

      ‘(B) The term ‘leave of general usage’ means leave provided under the policy or program of an employer, under which--

        ‘(i) an employee may take leave by adjusting or altering the work schedule or assignment of the employee according to criteria determined by the employer; and

        ‘(ii) the employee may determine the purpose for which the leave is to be utilized.

      ‘(C) The term ‘undue hardship’ has the meaning given the term in section 701(j)(3).

    ‘(2) For purposes of determining whether an employer has committed an unlawful employment practice under this title by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to the religious observance or practice of an employee, an accommodation by the employer shall not be deemed to be reasonable if such accommodation does not remove the conflict between employment requirements and the religious observance or practice of the employee.

    ‘(3) An employer shall be considered to commit such a practice by failing to provide such a reasonable accommodation for an employee if the employer refuses to permit the employee to utilize leave of general usage to remove such a conflict solely because the leave will be used to accommodate the religious observance or practice of the employee.

    ‘(4) It shall not be a defense to a claim of unlawful employment practice under this title for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation to a religious observance or practice of an employee that such accommodation would be in violation of a bona fide seniority system if, in order for the employer to reasonably accommodate such observance or practice--

      ‘(A) an adjustment would be made in the employee’s work hours (including an adjustment that requires the employee to work overtime in order to avoid working at a time that abstention from work is necessary to satisfy religious requirements), shift, or job assignment, that would not be available to any employee but for such accommodation; or

      ‘(B) the employee and any other employee would voluntarily exchange shifts or job assignments, or voluntarily make some other arrangement between the employees.

    ‘(5)(A) An employer shall not be required to pay premium wages or confer premium benefits for work performed during hours to which such premium wages or premium benefits would ordinarily be applicable, if work is performed during such hours only to accommodate religious requirements of an employee.

    ‘(B) As used in this paragraph--

      ‘(i) the term ‘premium benefit’ means an employment benefit, such as seniority, group life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, sick leave, annual leave, an educational benefit, or a pension, that is greater than the employment benefit due the employee for an equivalent period of work performed during the regular work schedule of the employee; and

      ‘(ii) the term ‘premium wages’ includes overtime pay and compensatory time off, premium pay for night, weekend, or holiday work, and premium pay for standby or irregular duty.’.

SEC. 3. EFFECTIVE DATE; APPLICATION OF AMENDMENTS.

    (a) EFFECTIVE DATE- Except as provided in subsection (b), this Act and the amendments made by section 2 take effect on the date of enactment of this Act.

    (b) APPLICATION OF AMENDMENTS- The amendments made by section 2 do not apply with respect to conduct occurring before the date of enactment of this Act.