City of Seattle

Ed Murray, Mayor


SUBJECT:   Mayor submits legislation on workplace discrimination
5/30/2013  3:53:00 PM

Mayor submits legislation on workplace discrimination
Bill will allow Office for Civil Rights to investigate claims relating to religious accommodations

SEATTLE Today Mayor Mike McGinn submitted legislation to the City Council that would give authority to the City's Office for Civil Rights to investigate claims of discrimination relating to religious accommodations in the workplace.

Protections against discrimination relating to religion in the workplace exist at the federal level; Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs and practices unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the conduct of the employer's business. But currently Seattle's fair employment ordinance does not include these protections, leaving the Seattle Office for Civil Rights unable to pursue or investigate claims of workplace discrimination related to religious accommodations.

"Seattle is home to people of many abilities and diverse religions. This bill will help us to ensure that people of all faiths and abilities are provided with equal opportunity in the workplace," said Mayor McGinn. "A simple adjustment to city code will ensure that our Office for Civil Rights has the ability to enforce existing federal law. I encourage anyone in our community who believes that they have experienced discrimination to contact the Office for Civil Rights for support."

Examples of religious accommodations in the workplace include allowing an employee to use break times for prayers, or accommodation of an employee who is required to wear a religious head covering or other item in observance of their religion. The proposed legislation amends the City of Seattle's Fair Employment Ordinance to align with federal law. It also adds a definition of undue hardship to provide clarity as to what constitutes an undue hardship for an employer in accommodating the request and adds language to the Fair Employment definition of reasonable accommodation for disabilities to bring it into alignment with federal law.