Religious accommodation problems -- often a worker-management bone of contention during the holiday season -- are causing little difficulty this year, a survey of Fortune 500 firms said this week.
The survey by the Bureau of National Affairs said almost 20 percent of the 63 responding firms said they had received no requests from workers relating to accommodating their religious needs. Almost 50 percent said the number of requests was minimal, or between one and 10 accommodation requests.
When employes do request that companies accommodate their religious beliefs, the survey said, the most frequent request -- 86 percent -- is for "adjustments in scheduling."
Since 1980, the survey said, 11 percent of the companies surveyed have been taken to court over allegations they failed to make accommodations for employes' religious practices.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make accommodation for religious beliefs unless doing so would create undue business hardship.
In 1980, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidelines that sought to spell out how accommodation was to be met and what "undue hardship" meant.
According to the survey, the commission guidelines are scheduled for review because of questions raised about them by a 1986 Supreme Court decision, but it is unlikely the review will occur before the end of the Reagan administration in January 1989.
But the report concluded that despite some problems, religious accommodation issues are relatively insignificant these days.
"Religious accommodation usually is not as big a problem for employers as some other equal employment opportunity issues," the report said.
It cited as one reason for the lessening difficulty the fact that "religion is not as popular as it once was."
The commission received 1,990 charges involving religion -- about 4 percent of all its cases. Of those cases, 1,057 have been closed, and awards totaling $903,316 were given in 169 cases.
Company executives offering written comments on the survey suggested that a written policy on religious accommodation issues and fairness are keys to reducing the number of complaints.
"Our experience has shown that a widely communicated written policy opens the channels of communication between employes and their local management which gives religious accommodation the status of a generally acceptable business practice," said James Worrell, corporate personnel manager at Georgia Gulf Corp. of Atlanta.