Credit Union HR Answers: Avoid the extremes

Responding to religious requests for accommodation

It may be possible to go too far in accommodating religious requests. Organizations wary of legal difficulties have occasionally eliminated long-standing events and even dampened their cultures when presented with requests that could have likely been addressed with far less extreme measures.

One activity that speaks to the culture at $1.3 billion/150,000-member South Carolina Federal Credit Union, North Charleston, is the paid shopping time—four hours of it—offered to employees at Christmas. “I had an employee tell me they don’t celebrate Christmas,” recalls Leslie Norris, SVP/human resources and development. “They asked if they shouldn’t participate in the hours.”

A knee-jerk reaction could have been to do away with the holiday shopping perk to avoid creating an appearance of inequality, but Norris’s team used a different approach. “I said, ‘You celebrate what’s important in your life and we would still like to give you the four hours.’” The requestor was satisfied with that accommodation and the other workers were able to continue enjoying a much-appreciated tradition. “If we had stopped giving those Christmas hours to the rest of the organization, that would have totally changed our culture and our warm, friendly workplace,” Norris says.

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