Religious discrimination commonly involves being discriminated against because of your religion. For example, being denied a job because you are Muslim. However, religion discrimination also applies to people being discriminated against at work for their lack of religion.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from all kinds of religious discrimination, including being discriminated against for one’s belief in atheism, agnosticism, secular humanism, or any belief that is grounded on a lack of religion. For example, if a company has predominantly Christian employees, and holds prayer groups during work hours, an atheist or non-religious employee cannot be punished or treated any differently for his failure to attend (and indeed, the prayer groups themselves may be found illegal). Some states, such as Utah, have even made it illegal to discriminate against a person for their personal religious and/or moral opinions, including opinions on whether a higher power exists or if there is an afterlife.
If you have even been left out of meetings, or feel you are not getting the same opportunities as other employees because of your lack of religion, then you very likely have a religious discrimination claim.
Keep in mind, however, that it is not technically illegal to ask applicants questions regarding their religious background or beliefs. What is illegal is if the employer uses that information in any way to make employment decisions.
An important exception to this rule, however, is the “religious organization exemption.” Basically, a church or other primarily faith based organization is allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion.
Do I Need an Employment Attorney?
An employee that feels they have been discriminated against based on their religion (or lack thereof) should contact an employment discrimination attorney immediately. The time limits on the filings of these cases are short and strict, and a skilled attorney is invaluable in guiding you through the process of filing your case with the EEOC (needs to be done within 180 days of the discrimination), as well as the complicated effort of gathering evidence against your employer.