Religion is an essential part of millions of Americans’ lives. Having the freedom to practice whatever religion you prefer is an extremely important right that Americans are granted. While people all over the country actively practice a religion, religious discrimination is still a huge problem for many with various religious beliefs. Your religion is a meaningful part of who you are and shouldn’t be used against you in your workplace.
In 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that they received over 2,000 charges of religious discrimination. Unfortunately, many employees suffer in the workplace because of religious discrimination, which can occur in various forms.
What Religious Beliefs are Protected?
Religion is a protected class, and the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against employees for their religious beliefs. When many people think of religion, they might think about the organized religions common around the world, such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
However, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 doesn’t only provide protections for those associated with widely-recognized organized religions. Americans are protected from religious discrimination regardless of what sincerely held moral and ethical beliefs they have. Even if only a small group of people share these beliefs and are not part of a formal church, discriminating against them for their beliefs is illegal. Those who choose not to practice a religion or have no religious beliefs are also protected from discrimination due to their beliefs.
Types of Religious Discrimination
Religious discrimination in the workplace can come in many forms. If you believe you experienced any unfair treatment at work due to your religion, you may have a religious discrimination claim that you need to discuss with an employment discrimination lawyer.
Here are a few examples of what workplace religious discrimination can look like.
Not Accommodating to Religious Observances
Different religions may have various holy days throughout the year, as well as Sabbath during the week. Additionally, some religions require fixed prayer times during the day. Religious employees may require time off or a different schedule to adhere to their religious observances.
If these accommodations are reasonable, employers are expected to allow them. However, employers aren’t always required to approve time off or change schedules for religious observances. If providing accommodations causes a burden for the company, failing to accommodate may not be considered discrimination.
Discriminatory Dress Codes
Certain religions require followers to wear certain types of clothing or have specific rules regarding grooming. For example, some religions require head coverings for men and women or prohibit women from wearing certain articles of clothing, such as pants. A religion might also require followers to keep their hair long and not cut it or have them style their hair in specific ways. Workplace dress codes that require employees to break their religion’s rules on dress and grooming can be discriminatory, even if this wasn’t the intention of the policy.
Discriminatory Employment Practices
Religious discrimination can occur in all aspects of a person’s employment. Workplaces that discriminate based on an employee’s religion may not hire certain employees due to their actual or perceived religion. Employees who are discriminated against for their religion might not be promoted, paid fairly, or given the same benefits as other employees. Discriminatory termination might also occur due to an employee’s religious beliefs.
Some employees may suffer verbal harassment from coworkers, supervisors, and people outside of the company, such as customers. According to Title VII, religious harassment can occur when someone “explicitly or implicitly coerces an employee to abandon, alter, or adopt a religious practice as a condition of receiving a job benefit or privilege or avoiding an adverse employment action.” Title VII also makes hostile work environments caused by religious harassment unlawful, which includes unwelcome comments and conduct. While offensive jokes and comments can be upsetting, these behaviors need to be severe before they can be considered unlawful harassment.
Talk to an Employment Discrimination Lawyer
In a country where you’re entitled to religious freedom, you should never be left to feel unsafe and unwelcome in your workplace due to your religious beliefs. At Bantle & Levy, we’re experienced in helping employees who have suffered damages due to this type of discrimination and will help you stand up for your rights.
If you believe you’ve been discriminated against for your religious beliefs, contact us to speak with one of our employment discrimination lawyers today.