Racial prejudice, antisemitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart.
- Reverend Billy Graham
An office that has employees of different faiths is a workplace that is strong in diversity and culture. Unfortunately, when different religions intersect on the job, misunderstandings, bias, and hateful acts can also occur.
Discriminating against an employee or coworker because of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) is illegal and should never be tolerated. No matter how or whom you worship, your faith should never determine your conditions of employment or interfere with your efforts to earn a living. Employees should not face harassment or segregation in the workplace because of their religious beliefs or observances but should have those practices accommodated if possible.
Holding an employer accountable when you are mistreated at your job because of your religious beliefs or observances is neither easy nor comfortable. At Haynes & Haynes, P.C., we understand this. We know how much your faith and your job both mean to you, and how any conflict between them can lead to some of the most stressful times in your life.
We want to ease your burden. We are here to work for you to secure your rights under the law so that you can have peace of mind without worrying about work/religious life conflicts. If you have faced religious discrimination in the workplace, give our team of experienced at call at (205) 879-0377 or fill out our online form. The consultation is free. Our passion is to fight for you and your faith.
What is Religious Discrimination?
Religious discrimination occurs when an employee or job applicant is treated unfavorably simply because of his or her religious beliefs or observances. This extends to a worker being mistreated because his or her spouse is of a particular religion, or because a worker has a connection to a religious group.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on religion. Traditional organized religions, such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism are all protected under the law. But so are new, uncommon, or lesser-known religious beliefs. Title VII also protects those who are discriminated against or need an accommodation because they profess no religious beliefs. Religious beliefs include not only theistic beliefs (i.e., those that include a belief in God) but also non-theistic moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views. However, social, political, or economic philosophies, as well as mere personal preferences, are not "religious" beliefs protected by Title VII.
Employers are not allowed to discriminate at any point in the employment process. Religious beliefs cannot be a factor in:
- Hiring or interviewing
- Salary or compensation
- Job assignments
What Does Religious Discrimination Look Like?
Let's say Mark and John are both applying for the same job. Mark is Christian. John is Jewish. John is told by an employee at the company that the reason he was not hired is because he is Jewish and Mark is Christian. That is an example of religious discrimination in the workplace.
John goes on to find another job. As he does every day, John wears a yarmulke to work. He's then teased excessively about his yarmulke and his religion. The jokes are hurtful and relentless over a period of weeks, if not months. John begins to suffer emotionally. This is also a case of religious discrimination: religiously harassing or hostile environment.
Religious discrimination can take may forms in addition to these two examples. An employer may violate the law by not providing a reasonable accommodation to a religious belief or observance. These requests must be considered by employers and granted unless the accommodation would cause an undue hardship to the employer. The objective of the law is to permit employees to observe their religious beliefs without undue interference from their employers. Schedules can be made flexible to accommodate religious observances. Certain job duties can be reassigned when possible. An employer must make an honest effort to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs and practices.
Harassment, however, might be the most common type of religious discrimination. It is illegal to harass anyone because of his or her religion, or lack thereof. Harassment includes offensive or hurtful remarks, negative comments about a person's practices, or repeated attempts to convert individuals to another religion. Serious harassment can go on for years and deeply harm the victim.
It is important to note that there is a line between harassment and teasing. The law does not prohibit simple stray comments or remarks. But when religious harassment is so frequent and extreme that the workplace becomes hostile or offensive, that is discrimination.
What Employers Are Supposed To Provide
Aside from providing a workplace free of harassment, employers must reasonably accommodate religious observances and practices in the workplace. Requests for reasonable accommodation must be granted unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. Employers need not grant accommodations that put the employees or the company at serious risk or which interfere with the legitimate business of the employer. For example, your employer must consider allowing employees to wear certain religious items of clothing or keep a certain appearance at work without conflict or harassment. Headscarves and yarmulkes are very common examples of such accommodations.
How We Can Help
The laws that protect employees from religious discrimination are lengthy, detailed, and sometimes confusing. For a deeper reading, check out this question and answer page from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you think you have a religious discrimination case, contact Haynes & Haynes by filling out our online form. The consultation is always free, and we are waiting to work hard to protect your rights in the workplace.