Chapter 5: Religious Accommodation Policy
The purpose of this policy is to set out The University of Texas at El Paso (“University”) policy and procedure concerning religious accommodations for individuals with sincerely held religious beliefs and practices, 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 religious accommodations, and to help ensure compliance with students’ observance of religious holy days in accordance with Texas Education Code, Section 51.911 Religious Holy Days.
This policy applies to students, faculty, staff, prospective and entering students, and applicants for employment at the University.
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.
5.4 Requests for Religious Accommodation
5.4.1 Students and other Beneficiaries of University programs, services, or activities.
220.127.116.11 Students who would like to request a religious accommodation should contact the applicable faculty or designee in advance. Faculty and or designee should be timely and responsive to such requests.
18.104.22.168 Students should refer to the Undergraduate or Graduate University Catalog for the policy on absence from class for the observance of religious holy days.
22.214.171.124 Other Beneficiaries of University programs, services, or activities who anticipate a need for religious accommodation should complete and submit the Request for Reasonable Religious Accommodation Form to the program or department offering the service or activity.
126.96.36.199 A University employee can initiate a request for religious accommodation by completing and submitting the Request for Reasonable Religious Accommodation Form to their respective department head. The request must be submitted 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 a religious holy day.
188.8.131.52 The supervisor receiving the religious accommodation request should timely review, consult with the Equal Opportunity (EO) Office if needed, and make a decision. A copy of the religious accommodation request and decision must be provided to the EO Office for official record.
184.108.40.206 The Texas legislature has designated Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Good Friday as optional holidays. An employee eligible for holiday leave may observe an optional holiday or other religious holiday, by working on any holiday in which a skeleton crew is required, or by using applicable accrued vacation leave. For guidance on employee observance of religious holidays, please see the Handbook of Operating Procedures (“Handbook”), Section V, Chapter 21-Holidays.
5.4.3 Job Applicants and Prospective and Entering Students
220.127.116.11 Prospective and entering students may request a religious accommodation during admission, orientation, and enrollment events and activities. Undergraduate students may complete and submit the Request for Reasonable Religious Accommodation Form to the Enrollment Services Office. Graduate students may complete and submit the Request for Reasonable Religious Accommodation Form to a member of the admission process for the program, college, or school for which they are applying.
18.104.22.168 Applicants for employment may request a religious accommodation for the employment application process by completing and submitting the Request for Reasonable Religious Accommodation Form to the department in which they will be interviewing, or to the chair of the search committee.
5.4.4 The UTEP representative reviewing the religious accommodation request should respond in a timely manner. The UTEP representative 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. The respective UTEP representative will inform the requestor of the accommodation determination.
5.4.5 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 an alternative accommodation.
5.4.6 Supervisors, hiring officials, and program administrators will take efforts to accommodate religious accommodation requests, following the practice that a religious accommodation will be provided unless the request is objectively unreasonable, or doing so would pose an undue hardship to the University.
5.5 Complaint and Appeal Process
5.5.1 Filing the Complaint
22.214.171.124 Students and other 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 department chair, or the program director if there is no department chair. The department chair, or program director, as applicable, must inform the Director of the EO Office within five (5) business days of receiving the complaint.
126.96.36.199 Employees, job applicants, or prospective or entering students who believe that they have unfairly been denied a reasonable religious accommodation by the department or program, may file a complaint with the EO Office.
188.8.131.52 The complaint must be in writing and filed within five (5) business days after the complainant receives 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.
184.108.40.206 The complaint shall be investigated, and a written statement containing the determination and/or proposed resolution shall be sent to the complainant and respective individual or office within fifteen (15) business days of the receipt of the complaint.
220.127.116.11 The EO Office shall maintain records related to the complaint.
18.104.22.168 Complaints otherwise alleging discrimination on the basis of religion should be filed as provided for under the Equal Employment/Affirmative Action/Non-discrimination Policy, specifically, Handbook Section VI, Chapter 1.4.
5.5.2 Appeal of the Complaint Decision
22.214.171.124 Students and other 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 the receipt of the complaint decision. The appeal must be in writing and include the name and contact information of the person filing the appeal and a statement as to why the decision is unfair or incorrect. The dean must consult with the Director of the EO Office and issue a decision within five (5) business days of receiving the appeal. The decision of the dean (or designee) is final.
126.96.36.199 Prospective or entering students may appeal the decision of the EO Office, to the Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Services (or designee) within five (5) business days of the receipt of the complaint decision. The appeal must be in writing and include the name and contact information of the person filing the appeal and a statement as to why the decision is unfair or incorrect. The Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Services (or designee) must consult with the Associate Vice President of Human Resources and issue a decision within five (5) business days of receiving the appeal. The decision of the Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Services (or designee) is final.
188.8.131.52 An employee or job applicant who is not satisfied with the decision of the EO Office, may appeal the decision to the Associate Vice President for Human Resources (or designee) within five (5) working days of receipt of the complaint decision. The appeal must be in writing and include the name and contact information of the person filing the appeal and state why the decision is unfair or incorrect. The decision of the Associate Vice President for Human Resources (or designee) is final.
184.108.40.206 If a complainant decides not to appeal the complaint decision or fails to submit an appeal by the specified deadline, such shall constitute abandonment of the complaint.
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 been subjected to retaliation should timely contact the EO Office.
5.7 Confidentiality and Documentation
In evaluating and processing a religious accommodation request, the University will strive to protect the requesting individual’s privacy to the extent allowable by law. Upon receipt of a religious accommodation request, the appropriate University officials will discuss and review the request for purposes of evaluation and potential implementation of the requested accommodation.
Religious accommodation - is a reasonable change in the work or academic 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 beliefs 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, which are beliefs in the existence of a God or gods, as well as non-theistic beliefs, which are “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the 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 religious accommodation would pose an unreasonable burden or significant difficulty or expense to the University. In determining whether a religious 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.