Accommodating Minority Religions Under Title VII: How Muslims Make the Case for a New Interpretation of Section 701(j)

The ramifications of September 11th reach far beyond national se-curity. Bilal Zaheer takes a closer look at a specific area, religion in the workplace, that figures to grow even more prominent in the post-September 11th world. In particular, Islam will soon surpass Judaism as the largest minority faith in the United States. Zaheer emphasizes the unique problems that Islam, with its practice-intensive nature, presents for both employers and employees in trying to provide equitable accom-modations to religious minorities in the workplace. Although Congress passed section 701(j) of Title VII to eliminate the tension between religion and work, and force employers to accommodate certain religious practices, modern court interpretations have rendered section 701(j) an empty protection.As a result, Zaheer offers a new framework for analyzing section 701(j). Specifically, Zaheer suggests that employers should be required to ac-commodate all practices deemed “central” to the employee’s faith, unless accommodation of those practices would result in a significant hardship to the employer. In contrast, noncentral religious practices must be accommodated only if the employer can do so without incurring more than a de minimis cost. Although Islam acts as the test case for exposing and resolving interpretation issues under section 701(j), Zaheer’s framework provides robust protection for all religious minorities in the workplace.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.