American Jewish Committee Leader Urges Congress to Pass WRFA
PRESS RELEASE - AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE - www.ajc.org
November 11, 2005, Washington, D.C. –The American Jewish Committee is urging Congress to adopt the Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2005.
“WRFA provides an important bulwark against religious discrimination in the workplace,” Richard T. Foltin, AJC’s Legislative Director and Counsel, told the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations.
Testifying yesterday in support of WRFA (H.R. 1445), Foltin pointed out that current civil rights law does not adequately protect religiously observant employees. WRFA would strengthen current law that requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to an employee’s religious practice.
Acknowledging that current civil rights law defines the refusal of an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious practice as a form of religious discrimination, Foltin argued that “the standard has been so vitiated by the fashion in which it has been interpreted by the courts as to needlessly force upon religiously observant employees a conflict between the dictates of religious conscience and the requirements of the workplace.”
Under WRFA, Foltin continued, the employer must provide reasonable accommodation unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer, defined as significant difficulty or expense, and it need only be provided to an employee who is able to perform the essential functions of the job.
Foltin also rebutted arguments that WRFA would lead to conflict between employees. “The WRFA balancing test affords crucial civil rights protection for religiously observant employees while assuring that accommodation of those employees will not trample the rights of others in the workplace,” he said.
“Overall, WRFA will strengthen the religious accommodation provisions of existing federal civil rights law,” said Foltin, who also is co-chair of the Coalition for Religious Freedom in the Workplace. The coalition is a broad array of religious and civil rights organizations that has joined to promote the passage of legislation to strengthen the religious accommodation provisions of existing civil rights law.
WRFA was introduced on March 17 in the Senate by Senators Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), and in the House of Representatives by Reps. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY). Click here for Foltin’s full testimony.