Religious Discrimination at Workplace
At The Rubin Law Corporation, our Los Angeles religious discrimination attorneys serve clients in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, San Diego and the entire Southern California region in the fight against religious discrimination in the workplace.
Courtesy of the First Amendment, Americans enjoy two freedoms with respect to religion. One is the right to be free from a government-imposed religion, and the other is a right to practice any religion.
That, coupled with the number of employed persons and the variety of religious faiths in this country, can pose some tough questions for employers and the courts.
What Constitutes Religious Discrimination?
Private employers are not bound by the Constitution’s restrictions on government; however, they are subject to federal and state laws that ban religious discrimination in employment.
The primary statute that outlines the legality of religion in the workplace is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits private employers from discriminating on several bases, including race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act provides similar protections with some added advantages.
Understanding Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
There are a few different kinds of religious discrimination that one sees in the workplace. In general, they fall into two categories. The first is when an employer treats an employee differently based on their religious affiliation. The second when an employer fails to accommodate an employee’s religious expression.
Disparate Treatment Based on Religion
The law prohibits an employer from considering your religion when making an employment decision. For instance, an employer may not deny an applicant or pass over an employee for a promotion based on the free practice of their religion.
In addition, it is unlawful for an employer, supervisor, or fellow employee to engage in harassment, intimidation, or make unwanted jokes at the employee’s expense. If an employee files a complaint with a supervisor or the HR department over harassment, intimidation, or insensitive jokes, the employer must conduct an investigation and remedy the situation. If the employer ignores the situation or retaliates against the employee by firing or demoting them, they can be sued for workplace discrimination based on religion.
It’s also important to recognize that atheists, agnostics, and other non-religious people receive protection from discrimination based on this standard. An employer may not consider their lack of religion when considering them for promotion. An employer may not ask an employee about their religion during an interview or on an application. That also opens them up to a lawsuit.
In addition, an employer may not favor employees who share their faith. Unless the employment has a basis in religious work, the employer cannot legally exclude individuals of other faiths.
Proving Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
Proving discrimination in the workplace can sometimes be tricky. Employees who feel they have suffered religious discrimination should employ the help of an attorney as soon as they feel there may be discrimination happening. A religious discrimination attorney can help you get the evidence you need to prove your case. This can include establishing a timeline of incidences. It can also include comparing your credentials against those who have received promotions ahead of you.
An employer may make comments about religious attire or not trusting those of a certain faith. Some non-religious employers may believe that those practicing any religion are inferior to those who reject religion. An employer may have said disparaging things about a certain religion. Or the employer may worry that customers will see those practicing a certain religion as especially violent or dangerous.
The trick in these cases is to write down the incidences as they occur. You should also ensure that you have an accurate timeline of events.
If you suffered harassment from other employees due to your religion, you should file a complaint in writing with your supervisor or HR department. It should include a catalog of events that you find troubling or upsetting. Their response to your complaint will determine whether or not you can successfully sue. If they disregard your concerns and the abuse or harassment continues, then you have every right to sue due to a hostile work environment. If they address the issue by punishing or firing the employee or employees who are committing the harassment, then your problem is solved.
Failure to Accommodate the Religious Beliefs of a Worker
A worker is allowed the free practice of their religion. If this entails praying five times a day or taking certain days off from work, then their employer must accommodate them. Unless the act of accommodating the employee would cause undue hardship to the workplace or the job, the law expects employers to make a reasonable effort to allow their employees concessions for the practice of their faith.
In addition, some individuals of a particular faith may wear certain religious garments that are meaningful to the practice of their religion. Recently, there was a case involving the wearing of dreadlocks in the workplace. Due to federal standards, courts have dismissed most cases of dreadlock discrimination suits. The law considers racial characteristics to be immutable and hairstyle is not an immutable characteristic. When the same case was tried by a Rastafarian, however, it got very different results. Dreadlocks are a part of Rastafarian religion. Strange as it may sound, a Rastafarian has the right to wear dreadlocks to work, but other African-Americans may not. The EEOC, however, is currently trying to challenge this.
Religious Discrimination: What Should I Do?
You should involve a religious discrimination attorney early in the process. You must, however, file a complaint with your superiors or HR. If they handle the situation properly, then they have done what they had to under the law. If they haven’t, you have cause to sue. Either way, a religious discrimination attorney can help you seek the resolution you deserve.
Our discrimination attorneys will build a timeline of prohibited events to prove that your employer discriminated against you or fostered an environment in which others discriminated against you.