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Examples of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Religious Discrimination: An Overview

Practicing or choosing not to practice a religion is a very personal choice each person makes. One that is firmly rooted in the U.S. Constitution. Look no further than the First Amendment to see that everyone in the United States has the right to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all. As one of our most fundamentally protected rights, it is also the one most often fought over in legal setting, particularly around such issues as school vouchers.

What if your religious beliefs come into conflict with another's person's rights? What if what you believe is vastly different than those around you? What if, as a result, you experience religious discrimination? Let's look at some examples of religious discrimination in the workplace and what protections are available.

Laws Protecting Citizens From Religious Discrimination

Let's start with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. This law prohibits government from encouraging or promoting religion in any way. You might be a Protestant, your neighbor an Atheist, and your best friend a Muslim. No matter what your belief, the government cannot "establish" an official religion.

How Does Title VII of the Civil Rights Act Come into Play?

The most important civil rights legislation of our time is inscribed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment. The Act also requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless to do so would create an undue hardship upon the employer.

What is a "Reasonable Accommodation?"

A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his religion. Flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments and lateral transfers are examples of accommodating an employee's religious beliefs.

To be clear, "religious beliefs" can include a variety of traditions which are both theistic and non-theistic beliefs. This means those who believe in God and those do no believe in God in the traditional sense, but have more non-theistic moral or ethical beliefs about right and wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.

Prohibited Actions by an Employer

There are a number of actions an employer should not engage in in order to be sure they are complying with the laws. First of all, employers shouldn't schedule examinations or other selection activities in conflict with a current or prospective employee's religious needs, inquire about an applicant's future availability at certain times, maintain a restrictive dress code, or refuse to allow observance of a Sabbath or religious holiday, unless the employer can show that not doing so would cause an "undue hardship." Here are a few more examples:

  • Refusing to recruit, hire, or promote a person because of they are of a certain religion
  • Imposing more or different work requirements on an employee because of that employee’s religious beliefs or practices
  • Imposing stricter promotion requirements for persons of a certain religion
  • Reusing to hire an applicant solely because he or she doesn't share the employer’s religious beliefs
  • Excluding an applicant from hire merely because he or she may need a reasonable accommodation that could be provided absent undue hardship
  • Excluding an applicant from consideration for hire simply because they have a name associated with a particular religion

Examples of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace: Additional Resources

After reading this article, you may have a number of different questions or concerns. Not to worry. FindLaw can help you continue your research. Click on the links below to learn more about religion and the law.

Filing a Religious Discrimination Claim? Talk to an Attorney Today

Are you concerned about religious discrimination in your own work environment? These kinds of issues can be extremely sensitive, but it's important to know that you have rights. It's even more important to know that there are employment law attorneys out there who specialize in employment discrimination and can help. 

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified employment discrimination attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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