Missouri State University

Accommodations for Religious Observances Policy

Policy Statement

The University emphasizes the dignity and equality common to all persons and adheres to a strict nondiscrimination policy regarding the treatment of individual faculty, staff, and students. 

Discrimination or harassment against any member of the University community will not be tolerated at Missouri State University.  The University Nondiscrimination policy and Prohibition of Discrimination and Harassment Policy and a listing of known religious holidays can be found at http://www.missouristate.edu/equity/10537.htm

Definitions

Creed

An authoritative formula of religious beliefs or set of fundamental beliefs.

Essential Function

A fundamental job duty of an employment position for staff and faculty, or a fundamental academic element of a course or program of study for a student.

Good Faith

More than a negligible effort to accommodate the student's or employee's request for religious accommodation.  If the proposed accommodation does not eliminate the student's or employee's religious conflict, the University demonstrates that any further accommodation would cause "undue hardship" (see definition for "undue hardship" below).

Reasonable Accommodation

Any change in the work environment for staff and faculty, or academic course or program of study for students, in the way tasks or responsibilities are customarily done that enables an employee or student to participate in his/her religious practice or belief without undue hardship in the conduct of the University's business or operation.  A reasonable religious accommodation may include, for example, providing a time to pray, and/or providing the flexibility to wear religious attire.

Religious Practice or Belief

A practice or observance that includes moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong that is sincerely held, with the strength of traditional religious views.

Undue Hardship

The determination of undue hardship is dependent on the facts of each individual situation. Examples include: an accommodation requiring (1)more than a de minimus cost; or (2) as otherwise defined by law.  In addition, an accommodation will be considered an undue hardship if it will result in the inability of the employee or student to perform an essential function of the position or course/program of study.

Procedures

Overview

The University may provide a reasonable accommodation based on a person's sincerely held religious belief. In making this determination, the University reviews a variety of factors, including whether the accommodation would create an undue hardship. The accommodation request imposes responsibilities and obligations on both the individual requesting the accommodation and the University. The person requesting the accommodation is obligated to make the University aware of the need for a religious accommodation in advance.

Once a request is made, the University will explore reasonable accommodations to address the person’s religious belief or practice, unless, again, the request creates an undue hardship. The person requesting the accommodation is obligated to cooperate with the University’s attempts to accommodate the request. When more than one accommodation is possible, the University may select any of the accommodations, provided the accommodation will effectively eliminate the religious conflict.   It may be necessary for the University to request the employee or student to provide documentation or other authority to support the need for an accommodation based on the employee’s or student’s religious practice or belief.  Further, the University may need to discuss the nature of the religious belief(s), practice(s) and accommodation with the religion’s spiritual leader (if applicable) or religious scholars to address the request for a religious accommodation.

A list of religious observances and holidays of which the University is aware are posted at the website for the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, and any questions or suggestions regarding this policy should be directed to that office.

Student Accommodation Requests

Students who expect to miss classes, examinations, or other assignments as a consequence of their sincerely held religious belief shall be provided with a reasonable alternative opportunity to complete such academic responsibilities. It is the obligation of students to provide faculty with reasonable notice of the dates of religious observances on which they will be absent by submitting a Request for Religious Accommodation Form to the instructor by the end of the third week of a full semester course or the end of the second week of a half semester course.

The instructor and the student should discuss what a reasonable accommodation should include in a given case.  Students who are absent on days of examinations or class assignments shall be offered an opportunity to make up the work, without penalty, unless it can be demonstrated that a makeup opportunity would constitute an undue hardship.  The student must be given the opportunity to do appropriate make-up work that is intrinsically no more difficult than the original exam or assignment.

Absence from classes or examinations for religious reasons does not relieve students from responsibility for any part of the course work required during the period of absence.  The instructor may also appropriately respond if the student fails to satisfactorily complete any alternative assignment or examination.   

If the instructor and student agree on the accommodation, the plan should be carried out.

If after discussion there is no consensus on the accommodation, either party or both should seek the advice of the department head.  In those cases where a request for a religious accommodation is denied by the instructor, the student may pursue a grievance under the academic grievance procedures outlined in the undergraduate and graduate catalogs.  Where a timely request is made by the student but denied by the instructor, the grievance process shall be expedited as much as reasonably possible to ensure that a student pursuing a religious accommodation is not unduly disadvantaged by the passage of time.  Either the instructor or the student may also appeal the decision to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance in accordance to the time limits and provisions set forth in the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance Complaint Procedures.

Faculty Accommodation Requests

As outlined in section 4.5.1.1 in the 2007 Faculty Handbook:  Faculty members are expected to meet their assigned classes or to see that suitable arrangements have been made for learning experiences for their students in the case of a required absence of the Instructor because of unusual circumstances or because of attendance at a professional meeting.  Faculty members who wish to observe religious holy days must fulfill the above-mentioned policy and satisfy any other responsibilities regarding off-campus time, including proper notice, in accordance with their standard departmental procedures.

In those cases where a request for a religious accommodation is denied by the department head, the faculty member may appeal the decision to the dean and ultimately to the Provost   Where a timely request is made by the faculty member but denied by the department head, the grievance process shall be expedited as much as reasonably possible to ensure that a faculty member pursuing a religious accommodation is not unduly disadvantaged by the passage of time.  Either the employee or the supervisor may also appeal the decision to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance in accordance to the time limits and provisions set forth in the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance Complaint Procedures.

Staff Accommodation Requests

Staff members may request accommodation for religious observances through their immediate supervisor.   Accommodation may be in the form of scheduled leave or an alternate work schedule that does not constitute undue hardship. Approved absences will be recorded as vacation. In cases when vacation is not available or an alternative work schedule is not possible, a leave of absence without pay may be permitted. Departments will attempt to accommodate such requests, balancing the request to accommodate with the particular needs of the work unit.  In order to best meet staffing needs in an area, appropriate advance notice is required.

In those cases where a request for a religious accommodation is denied by the supervisor, the staff member may pursue a grievance under the grievance processes outlined in the Employee Handbook.  Where a timely request is made by the staff member but denied by the supervisor, the grievance process shall be expedited as much as reasonably possible to ensure that a staff member pursuing a religious accommodation is not unduly disadvantaged by the passage of time.  Either the employee or the supervisor may also appeal the decision to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance in accordance to the time limits and provisions set forth in the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance Complaint Procedures.

Recordkeeping

Materials related to an employee’s or student’s religious accommodation request, including the written request for accommodation and any other document/information, will be shared only for authorized college/unit business reasons and will be filed along with other unit human resources or academic documents.

Resources

Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance
Park Central Office Building Ste. 111
417-836-4252 (voice); 417-836-3257 (TTY)
equity@missouristate.edu

Office of the Provost
Carrington Hall 209
417-836-4252 (voice)
Provost@missouristate.edu

Dean of Students
Plaster Student Union 405
417-836-5527 (voice); 417-836-6792 (TTY)
DeanofStudents@missouristate.edu

Department of Religious Studies
Strong Hall 251
417-836-5514
Religiousstudies@missouristate.edu