Last week Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed Senate Bill 786, which will require employers to more extensively accommodate employees’ religious practices and observation.  The bill passed both the Oregon House and Senate by wide margins earlier this Spring.  The new law will take effect January 1, 2010.

Oregon law already prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s religion.  Senate Bill 786 also requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious practices.  The law specifies types of accommodations that may be required, such as shift changes, approving vacation time for religious holidays, and allowing employees to wear jewelry or religious clothing.  The bill makes exceptions if the requested accommodations create an undue hardship on the employer.  The law contains only one occupation-specific exception:  public school teachers will be prohibited from wearing religious dress while at work.

The new Oregon law is modeled after federal regulations interpreting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and guidance on those regulations will help Oregon employers comply with the new law.  For an excellent guide on accommodating religious practices, check out this article on religious accommodation from HR Hero.  And, expect more tattooed and pierced employees to request accommodations due to their membership in the Church of Body Modification