Commission details employer rules. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new detailed guidelines for employers as the number of complaints and million-dollar settlements for cases of religious workplace discrimination neared record levels in 2013. The guidelines detail how businesses with more than 15 employees must accommodate workers with “sincerely” held religious beliefs—and unbelievers who “sincerely” refuse religious garb or insignia. Businesses cannot refuse to interview a Sikh with a turban or a Christian wearing a cross. Neither can they limit where employees work because of their religious dress. The only exceptions are whether the clothing or grooming practice is unsafe or places “undue hardship to the operation of an employer’s business.” According to the EEOC, in fiscal year 2013, the commission received 3,721charges alleging religious discrimination, more than double the 1,709 charges received in fiscal year 1997. The costs are rising as well. In 2013, monetary settlements for workplace religious discrimination reached $11.2 million, ranking just below the record of $14.1 million in 2001 and $12.6 million in 2011.
Court lets Episcopal Church keep property. The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a Virginia court ruling that allows the Episcopal Church to keep the property of a large congregation that left the denomination over theological differences. In 2013, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled the 3,000-member Falls Church, which voted in 2006 to leave the Episcopal Church and join an Anglican diocese, did not have the right to keep the property. It also ruled that some of the church’s nearly $3 million in assets belong to the Falls Church Anglican congregation. The Falls Church, a landmark building in downtown Falls Church, Va., was one of several Episcopal congregations that left the denomination over theological differences, many stemming from the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop. The Episcopal Church has fought for at least $40 million worth of church property in Virginia, according to The Washington Post. Similar property disputes have roiled Episcopal congregations around the country, as well as other denominations in mainline Christianity.