Christian Employment Discrimination Law

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 What Is Considered Employment Discrimination?

Employment discrimination occurs when an employee or a potential employee is treated less favorably than other similar employees based solely on certain characteristics. These characteristics include those that are protected by law, such as:

  • Age;
  • Sex;
  • Gender;
  • Religion;
  • Disability;
  • Other categories.

Employment discrimination may also occur when one group of employees is treated better than another group of employees based on the protected classes or categories noted above, which are defined by various laws. One example of this issue would be when a group of workers clearly receives benefits that are denied to other workers on the basis of their sex.

This type of discrimination typically occurs when an individual is already hired. However, it may also occur when an individual is seeking employment. For example, if an individual is not hired because they practice a certain religion.

What Is Christian Employment Discrimination?

In the United States, Christianity is one of the major religions. In certain regions, however, such as atheist or liberal urban centers, Christians may be a minority.

Constitution reverse discrimination is a potential type of Christian employment discrimination. This occurs when Christians are given preferential treatment in a non-religious workplace environment.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects Americans against any form of religious-based difference in treatment by a government employer, whether it is preferential or discriminatory. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits personal characteristic discrimination or treatment by a private employer.

What Constitutes an Employment Discrimination Claim?

An individual may file a religious employment discrimination claim based on a single incident or by a group that is alleging a pattern of discriminatory treatment. Types of claims that may be filed include:

  • Facial discrimination: A public indisputable incident or pattern of treatment is solid grounds for a claim, but the burden of proof is high;
    • For example, if an employer posted a job listing and specified something such as “men only” in the job listing, facial discrimination could be alleged and most likely proven;
    • The majority of companies are aware of these requirements and are careful to avoid practices that would result in disparate treatment claims;
  • Disparate impact: The burden of proof is lower for disparate impact claims. These claims show that a company’s policies or practices create an environment that keeps out or elevates certain groups of individuals;
    • The Supreme Court has stated that the demographics of a professional workforce should be a statistical mirror of the demographics of the community from which the workers were hired; and
    • An employer’s failure to meet these hiring standards may be grounds for a disparate impact claim;
  • Harassment: Serious injury is not a requirement for a claim of harassment that is based on a hostile work environment. A pattern of events that interfered with an employee’s ability to advance, made an employee feel unwelcome, or negatively affected their job performance is sufficient;
    • Conversely, preferential treatment of Christian employees could have similar effects on non-Christian employees;
  • Negligence: Employers are legally required to respond to discrimination claims made by employees. Failure to do so could be grounds for a negligence claim; and
  • Failure to respond: Employers are required to respond to any complaints of discrimination, whether they are discriminatory or preferential;
    • If the employer does not respond, they may be deemed negligent, which may be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit.

How Do I File an Employment Discrimination Claim?

In many cases, an employee will be required to file with a government agency before being allowed to file a lawsuit for employment discrimination. In most cases, this is done by filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC then conducts an investigation into the claim of discrimination and will provide an appropriate remedy. If the remedy provided is not sufficient or satisfactory, the claimant can file a private lawsuit. However, they will typically be required to exhaust any administrative and EEOC remedies first.

What Are the Legal Remedies for Christian Employment Discrimination?

The legal remedies available for Christian employment discrimination will depend on the type of losses or damages that were caused by the discrimination. The remedies in employment discrimination claims often include, but may not be limited to:

  • Payment for lost wages;
  • Reinstatement to the previous work position after a wrongful termination;
  • Reinstatement of lost benefits (such as lost retirement benefits);
  • Changes to the company’s policies and practices.

It is important to note that filing a discrimination claim may also uncover other instances of discrimination. This means it can be beneficial for an employee to file a claim, even for other employees.

An employer is not permitted to retaliate against an individual who has filed a discrimination claim, even if that claim is proven to be untrue. For example, it is against the law for an employer to terminate an individual because they filed a discrimination claim against the employer.

What Defenses Does an Employer Have?

There are several defenses an employer may be able to present against an employment discrimination claim, including, but not limited to:

  • Let go for cause: The Model Employment Termination Act provides clear guidelines for what constitutes a “good cause” termination. Changing performance standards, poor performance, reorganizing operations, consolidating positions, changing the nature of performance, or downsizing the workforce are all valid reasons to terminate an employee’s position;
    • If the employer can prove the termination of the employee followed the META standards, the discrimination claim will not be successful;
  • Mixed motive: If an employer can show that the employee was terminated for reasons that were outlined above or others covered by META, the discrimination claim may fail even if there is some proof of preferential or religion-specific treatment;
    • It is important to note that this defense is controversial and may not work in all jurisdictions;
  • Accommodations: Employers have a legal obligation to make reasonable accommodations for employees and their religious practices. However, they are not required to spend more than a minimal amount of money to do this;
    • Also, if the employer has made accommodations and can show that the employee alleging discrimination did not take advantage or make use of those accommodations, this could constitute a successful defense against a discrimination claim; and
  • Neutral practice: A claim about a certain policy or procedure has to show that the policy was intended to be discriminatory. If a neutral practice had an adverse impact on the plaintiff’s religion, the defendant could assert that the policy was created based on job and business necessity rather than discrimination.

What Can Limit What You Receive if You Win an Employment Discrimination Claim?

There are numerous factors that may affect the outcome of an employment discrimination claim. For example, if there was another reason the employer took action, it may affect the plaintiff’s damages award. For example, if the employer terminated the employee based on poor performance and not their race, their claim might be affected.

There are also some states that place limits on the amount of damages or the remedies that can be provided in these types of cases. Because of this, it is important for an employee to consult with a lawyer who can explain the laws in their state and advise them of any limitations.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

A civil lawsuit based on a discrimination claim may be very costly and lengthy if they proceed to trial. If you have experienced discrimination at work, it is important to consult with a discrimination lawyer to determine what remedies may be available to you. Your lawyer can assist you with any claims that must be filed with administrative agencies as well as filing a lawsuit in court if needed.

Many employers, especially larger organizations, retain lawyers to defend against lawsuits filed against them. Because of this, your best chance at compensation is likely having an attorney present your case and evidence.

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