2.11.2 Religious Accommodations

A. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to set out The University of Texas at Tyler (“University”) policy concerning religious accommodations for individuals with sincerely held religious beliefs and practices, and to provide for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging violation of Title IV and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1974 including complaints regarding denial of requested accommodations.

B. Persons Affected

This policy applies to students, faculty, staff, and applicants for admission or employment at the University.

C.  Definitions

Religious accommodation is a reasonable change in the work, academic or university environment that enables an individual to practice or observe a sincerely held religious belief or practice, but which does not fundamentally alter the academic or work environment or cause undue hardship to the mission or operations of the University.  

Religion includes all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief which may include not only traditional, organized religions but also religious beliefs which are new, uncommon, or otherwise unaffiliated with a formal church or sect. 

Religious Belief – includes theistic beliefs (i.e. those that include a belief in God) as well as non-theistic “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with strength of traditional religious views.” 

Religious observances or practices include, for example, attending worship services, praying, wearing religious garb or symbols displaying religious objects, adhering to certain dietary rules, proselytizing or other forms of religious expression, or refraining from certain activities.   

Undue Hardship – is a circumstance in which a proposed accommodation would present an unreasonable burden or significant difficulty or expense to the University.  In determining whether an accommodation would pose an undue hardship, factors to be considered include but are not limited to, the nature and cost of the accommodation, and the impact of the accommodation on the nature and operation of the department or University. 

D. Policy

The University is committed to providing an academic and work environment that is respectful of religious beliefs in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations.  This commitment includes embracing religious diversity and cultivating a community of inclusion and respect.  Reasonable accommodations will be provided to individuals whose sincerely held religious beliefs conflict with a University policy, procedure, or other academic or employment requirement, unless it is determined that doing so would cause undue hardship to the University.

  1. Requests for Religious Accommodation
    1. Students and other Beneficiaries of University programs, services, or activities

      Beneficiaries of University programs, services, or activities who anticipate a need for religious accommodation should contact the Office of the Dean of Students, as soon as they become aware of the need for the request. Upon review of the request, the Dean of Students may engage the Office of Human Resources.

      Students who would like to request a religious accommodation for a specific university event or a specific course should contact the applicable faculty or staff member in advance.  Faculty and staff should be timely and responsive to such requests. 

      Students should refer to the Undergraduate or Graduate University Catalog for the policy on absence from class on religious holidays.

    2. Employees
      A University employee can initiate a request for religious accommodation by contacting the Office of Human Resources (HR) or by completing and submitting the Request for Reasonable Religious Accommodation Form.  The request must be submitted at least 14 calendar days prior and approved in advance to observe a religious holy day and must specify whether applicable paid leave will be taken due to the observance of the religious holy day.  

      If a supervisor receives a religious accommodation request, they should timely refer the employee to the HR Office to ensure the University reviews, approves, and maintains accurate records regarding requests for religious accommodation.  

      The Texas legislature has designated Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and Good Friday as optional holidays. An employee eligible for holiday leave may observe optional holidays by working on any holiday in which a skeleton crew is required or by using applicable accrued leave. Refer to the Handbook of Operating Procedure, 4.18.5, Authorized Leave for the University’s policy regarding observance of religious holidays.  
    3. Job Applicants and Applicants for Student Admission
      Applicants for employment may request a religious accommodation (verbally or in writing) for the employment application process by contacting the HR Office or advising the department in which they will be interviewing, or advising the chair of the search committee, of the need for religious accommodation.  The individual may also complete and submit the Request for Reasonable Religious Accommodation Form to the HR Office.  

      Applicants for student admission may request a religious accommodation (verbally or in writing) for the admission process.  Undergraduate students may inform a member of the Admissions Office and graduate students may inform a member of the admission process for the program, college or school for which they are applying.  The individual may also complete and submit the Request for Reasonable Religious Accommodation Form to the HR Office.  

    Requests will be reviewed and responded to in a timely manner.  The respective offices will engage in the interactive process with the individual requesting the religious accommodation and the department or program to make a determination as to whether the accommodation will be provided, and will inform the requestor of the accommodation determination.

    Religious accommodation requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Relevant factors include but are not limited to: the fundamental requirements of the applicable academic program, technical standards of the program, essential functions of the individual’s position, duties and obligations of the department, impact on operations of the department, impact on operations of the University, duration of the accommodation, and feasibility of alternative accommodation.   

  2. Complaint Procedure
    1. Filing the Complaint
      1. University employees and applicants for employment or student admission who believe that they have unfairly been denied a reasonable religious accommodation by the HR Office may file a complaint with the Associate Vice President for Human Resources.  
      2. Students or Beneficiaries of University programs, services, or activities who believe that they have unfairly been denied a reasonable religious accommodation may file a complaint with the chair of the department, or the program director if there is no chair. The chair of the department or program director, as applicable, must inform the Dean of Students within five (5) business days of receiving the complaint.
      3. The complaint must be in writing and filed within five (5) business days after the complainant becomes aware of the religious accommodation decision. A complaint must include the name and contact information of the person filing the complaint, a description of the basis of the complaint, and any documents supporting the complaint.  
        iv. The complaint shall be investigated and a written statement containing the determination and/or proposed resolution shall be sent to the complainant within fifteen (15) business days of the receipt of the complaint.
      4. The respective office shall maintain records related to the complaint.  
      5. Complaints otherwise alleging discrimination on the basis of religion should be filed as provided for under the Handbook of Operating Procedure (HOP), 2.4.1, Nondiscrimination Policy and Complaint Procedure.
    2. Appeal of decisions which deny a religious accommodation
      1. If an employee is not satisfied with the decision of the Associate Vice President for Human Resources or the HR Office, the employee may appeal the decision to the appropriate division head.  A written appeal stating why the decision is unfair or incorrect may be made within five (5) working days of the receipt of the complaint decision.  The appeal must include the name and contact information of the person filing the appeal and a statement of the reason for the appeal.  The decision of the respective division head is final. 
      2. Students and Beneficiaries of University programs, services, or activities may appeal the decision of the department chair or program director to the dean (or designee) of the academic unit, within five (5) business days of receiving the decision. The dean must consult with the Dean of Students and issue a decision within five (5) business days of receiving the appeal. The decision of the dean is final.
  3. Retaliation

    Retaliation against an individual for requesting a religious accommodation or exercising any complaint or appeal rights related to such request, is strictly prohibited.  Individuals who believe they have experienced retaliation should timely contact the HR Office. 

  4. Confidentiality and Documentation

    In evaluating and implementing a religious accommodation request, the University will protect the requesting individual’s privacy to the extent allowable by law. However, following receipt of a request, the University official, administrator, supervisor(s), or designee(s) will discuss the accommodation request as necessary with the requestor and select others, for purposes of evaluation and or implementation of the accommodation.

ORIGINALLY APPROVED:  10/2021