SIGNED SEP 17 1997
SUBJECT: Guidelines on Religious Freedom in the Federal Workplace
FROM: David J. O'Connor, Director   /s/ DJO
Office of Human Resources
and Organizational Services

Rafael DeLeon, Acting Director  /s/ RD
Office of Civil Rights

TO: Deputy Assistant Administrators
Deputy Regional Administrators
This memorandum is to inform you that on August 14, 1997, the President issued "Guidelines on Religious Freedom in the Federal Workplace." In general, the Guidelines continue the current federal principles which govern employees' rights to religious expression. However, the Guidelines address in considerable detail the area of employees' religious expression when employees are acting in their personal capacity within the federal workplace. Our offices are establishing a workgroup to examine the full implications of the guidelines.

In the meantime, we have attached highlights of the Guidelines. In addition, we have forwarded the full text of the Guidelines to Assistant Regional Administrators, Program Management Officers, Human Resources Officers, Human Resources Staff Directors, Union Presidents and Equal Employment Opportunity Officers.

If you have specific questions regarding the Guidelines, please contact Ray Spears, Associate General Counsel, Finance and Operations Division, Office of General Counsel, 202-260-5320.


cc:  Assistant Regional Administrators
     Program Management Officers
     Human Resources Officers
     Human Resources Staff Directors
     Union Presidents
     Equal Employment Opportunity Officers

The following are highlights from President Clinton's "Guidelines on Religious Freedom in the Federal Workplace" as issued on August 14, 1997.
Religious Expression
  • Religious Expression In Private Work Areas. Employees should be permitted to engage in private religious expression in personal work areas not regularly open to the public to the same extent that they may engage in nonreligious private expression...
  • Religious Expression Among Fellow Employees. Employees should be permitted to engage in religious expression with fellow employees, to the same extent that they may engage in comparable nonreligious private expression, subject to reasonable restrictions...
  • Religious Expression Directed At Fellow Employees. Employees are permitted to engage in religious expression directed at fellow employees, and may even attempt to persuade fellow employees of the correctness of their religious views. But employees must refrain from such expression when a fellow employee asks that it stop or otherwise demonstrates that it is unwelcome.
Religious Discrimination
  • Coercion of Employee's Participation or Non-participation in Religious Activities. A person holding supervisory authority over an employee may not, explicitly or implicitly, insist that the employee participate in religious activities as a condition of continued employment, promotion, salary increases, preferred job assignments, or any other incidents of employment. Nor may a supervisor insist that an employee refrain from participating in religious activities outside the workplace...
  • Hostile Workplace Environment and Harassment. The law against workplace discrimination protects federal employees from being subjected to a hostile environment, or religious harassment... Whether particular conduct gives rise to a hostile environment, or constitutes impermissible religious harassment, will usually depend upon its frequency or repetitiveness, as well as its severity.
Accommodation of Religious Exercise
  • Federal law requires an agency to accommodate employees' exercise of their religion unless such accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the conduct of the agency's operations.
Establishment of Religion
  • Supervisors and employees must not engage in activities or expression that a reasonable observer would interpret as government endorsement or denigration of religion or a particular religion.
Full text of "Guidelines on Religious Freedom in the Federal Workplace".