Am I Being Discriminated Against Because of Religion?
Religion is a protected status under Title VII, which means that it is illegal to be discriminated against or harassed not only because of your own affiliation with a certain religion, but because of your association with a person with certain religious beliefs.
Discrimination or harassment based on religion could be refusing hire, being fired, not getting certain job assignments (including because of fear of perceived or actual customer preference), or people making derogatory comments about your religious beliefs (or the religious beliefs of a person that you are related to by blood or marriage) to the point where it is a hostile work environment that would make a reasonable person uncomfortable. To be classified as a hostile work environment, the comments must be severe, meaning serious, and/or frequent.
Employees with certain religious beliefs may be able to request a reasonable accommodation from their employer in order to make sure that the employee can comfortably practice their religion, as long as it is not an undue burden on the employer. This could include asking for permission to wear certain religious dress (such as headdresses), certain grooming accommodations (hairstyles or facial hair), or making allowances for certain restrictions on what people can wear, such as pants or miniskirts. So, if a company uniform bans wearing headdresses or hats, and your religion requires that you must wear a headdress, then you can request an accommodation for your religious beliefs.
Other accommodations for a religious belief may include requesting a split schedule or requesting days off for religious holidays. The employee must let the employer know that they want accommodations for religious beliefs, so that the employer is aware of what accommodations are needed and why.
An employer does not have to grant every accommodation request that the employee makes, especially if it is an undue hardship for the employer. If an accommodation is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of hazardous work, the request could be seen as an undue hardship on the employer. Additionally, an employer may decide to work around an employee’s religious restrictions by offering an accommodation different than the one the employee requested.
Additionally, an employer cannot force an employee to participate in or stop an employee from participating in a religious event as a condition of employment. So, if you are threatened with a demotion or termination because of participating or not participating in a religious event, that would be religious discrimination.
For more detailed information about religious discrimination, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/religion.cfm
If you have any questions about religious discrimination in the workplace, or any other questions about employment law, please contact Gold Star Law.