Federal Employment Discrimination Law – Religion

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 What Is Religious Discrimination?

When an employer treats a worker differently due to the worker’s religious preferences, this is known as religious discrimination. It is a type of job discrimination when a worker is treated less favorably than other workers of a similar caliber because they belong to a protected class. As a protected class, religion is.

Accordingly, it is deemed discrimination in the workplace if a worker is treated differently or less favorably than other workers of a similar caliber due to their religious affiliation.

Religious discrimination is expressly addressed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The following acts cannot be taken by an employer based on a member of a protected class, such as their religion, according to the Act:

  • Testing;
  • Prohibiting or authorizing the use of corporate facilities or equipment;
  • Accessibility to training or an apprenticeship;
  • Compensating, classifying, or allocating;
  • Transferring, promoting, or laying off employees;
  • Posting job openings;
  • Access to retirement, disability, and fringe benefits;
  • Creating clothing codes that intentionally hinder religious personnel
  • Scheduling tasks or tasks linked to employment so that they purposefully clash with religious festivals; and
  • Harassment, or failing to intervene to stop a coworker from harassing a worker.

Employers are prohibited from performing the following precise actions to avoid being charged with religious discrimination:

  • Employers should not treat certain employees favorably or unfavorably based on their faith. This might take the form of treating a Christian employee better or a Muslim employee worse;
  • Compel workers to engage in activities that conflict with their religious convictions; or
  • Permit harassment of workers on the basis of their beliefs. This includes experiencing harassment from management or other staff members.

Employers are not allowed to discriminate against their staff members based on their religion under federal law.

Employers are expected to offer reasonable adjustments for their workers’ religious practices in addition to the general ban against discriminatory employment practices unless doing so would put an excessive burden on the employer’s business.

This does not imply that an employer must grant every request made by a worker, regardless of whether those requests are religious in nature.

The following are some instances of behaviors that an employer must accept:

  • Not being able to work on Sunday
  • The necessity of taking breaks for prayer while working
  • Religious dietary restrictions
  • Certain standards for grooming and attire
  • Medical examinations not permitted by religion

Although not exhaustive, this list provides a rough idea of the kinds of accommodations that have been deemed reasonable per federal law.

If doing so would cause unreasonable hardship, an employer is not required to provide accommodations for an employee’s religious practices. This typically indicates that providing reasonable accommodation would be extremely expensive or burdensome for other workers.

Examples comprise:

  • Breaking a lawful seniority restriction
  • Incurring high expenses in terms of efficiency and time
  • Requiring other employees to put in excessive or unfavorable hours to cover for a missing employee

Why Are Classes Protected?

An instance of religious discrimination in the workplace is when a worker is treated less favorably than other workers who share similar traits. These specific traits are frequently referred to as protected classes. A person may not be discriminated against based on any of the following characteristics: age, race, national origin, religious beliefs, gender, disability, pregnancy, or veteran status, according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

When one group of employees receives preferential treatment over another group of employees even though both groups’ members meet the same employment requirements and performance standards, this is another instance of employment discrimination. An illustration of this would be when one set of employees receives perks that another group categorically refuses on the grounds of sex.

This is known as religious belief discrimination, when employees are treated differently or less favorably due to their religious preferences. Employers in the private sector and those working for the municipal, state, and federal governments are subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which specifically prohibits discrimination based on religion. In 2019, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) received almost 2,700 complaints of religious discrimination in the workplace, according to statistics filed by the EEOC.

What Is Accommodation for Religion? What Kinds of Religious Accommodation Are There?

Employers are required under federal law to respect acceptable religious practices. Employers must accommodate their staff members’ religious observances and personal holidays. Allowing workers to adjust their work hours to celebrate a religious holiday properly is one illustration of this.

Another specific example would be to give an employee’s request for a workplace dress code concession, provided it is not absurd or excessive.

Other examples of religious accommodations include, but are not limited to:

  1. Flexible work breaks for activities like prayer;
  2. Job reassignment, such as a department transfer or change in job tasks, provided that such action is fair and nondiscriminatory;
  3. Enabling the worker to switch shifts voluntarily;
  4. Changing company procedures to be more tolerant and inclusive;
  5. Allowing staff to follow religious grooming or dress customs, such as donning a head covering or sporting facial hair;
  6. Designating a private area to be utilized for religious observances; or
  7. Allowing workers to refrain from donning certain attire that conflicts with their religious beliefs, such as slacks, when their religion forbids them from wearing anything but dresses or skirts.

Regarding religious holidays, the employer is also required to allow the worker to make up for any time lost from work due to the time off for a holiday. Any form of prayer or other religious practice that unduly interferes with work could result in the employer refusing to allow it.

When requesting a religious accommodation, the employee must explain their need for a schedule adjustment based on their religious practice or if their beliefs clash with their job responsibilities. Accommodations are typically requested rather than automatically provided.

When Might One be Refused a Religious Accommodation?

An employer must demonstrate that it would be impossible to offer the accommodation fairly without simultaneously placing an “undue hardship” on the business to reject an employee’s request legally.

It may put an undue burden on the employer if a religious accommodation:

  1. Costs too much money;
  2. Endangers workplace safety standards;
  3. Infringes on the rights of other employees;
  4. Demands that other employees take on more tasks;
  5. Decreases workplace efficiency; or
  6. Violates the terms of the company’s collective bargaining agreement.

The employer must demonstrate that the request would place more than a modest burden on the business’s operations in order to establish an unreasonable hardship. Each jurisdiction will likely define extreme hardship differently. However, hardship will likely be assessed by comparing the price of the accommodation to the employer’s size, makeup, structure, and resources.

Do I Require Legal Representation for Religious Accommodation?

Suppose you think that your employer has treated you unfairly due to your religious convictions or practices. In that case, you should immediately get in touch with an experienced and competent discrimination lawyer.

You can better comprehend your legal options and the applicable state regulations with the aid of an employment law expert. An attorney will also decide the appropriate course of action and will defend you in court if you choose to sue your company for discriminatory practices.


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