Religious discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue. It can happen to any person of a particular religion, faith, or belief. It can also be against someone who is a non-believer. Some people have been fired from their jobs for speaking out about prejudice against religious minorities in the workplace. Others have been harassed and bullied because they hold a religious belief that differs from those of other workers in the office. Some job applicants have been turned away because they belong to a certain religious group, even though they were qualified for the position.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has been treated unfairly due to religious discrimination, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible and fight for your rights. You do not have to do it alone; contact the New York employment law firm of Levine & Blit by calling (212) 967-3000 to help you decide the best course of action.
What Is Religious Discrimination?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: “Religious discrimination involves treating a person less favorably than another based on the individual’s religion.”
The law prohibits discrimination in every aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, pay, layoffs, job assignments, training, fringe benefits, etc. The Federal government enforces these laws through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These laws also forbid harassment based on an employee’s religious beliefs. Harassment based on the person practicing a certain religion is a form of direct discrimination.
Some common religious discrimination examples – both direct and indirect discrimination – include the following:
- You have excellent job performance until your supervisor learns that you are Muslim, at which point you are terminated.
- You are an atheist and your supervisor prays before every meeting. You try to excuse yourself, but your employer won’t let you leave.
- You are a Buddhist and your supervisor is a Christian. They give a promotion to a Christian candidate even though they know you are more qualified and experienced.
- A manager says they prefer hiring Christians over Muslims, Sikhs, or Hindus.
- Your supervisor refuses to give you time off to celebrate your religious festivals.
Unlike federal law, New York State and New York City laws also explicitly prohibit employment discrimination based on attire, clothing, or facial hair worn for religious reasons. Discrimination based on religion could result from a dress code that prohibits wearing a hijab, turban, or yarmulke.
An employee may request a reasonable accommodation for religious practices, but an employer can argue that the accommodation would cause undue hardship. If the employee requests an accommodation that imposes significant burdens on the employer, such as requesting time off to observe holidays or changing work schedules, the employer must explain why the accommodation cannot be provided.
Addressing Religious Discrimination
Many employers attempt to avoid having to accommodate employees’ religious freedom by discriminating against them. Such behavior might seem harmless at first, but it is illegal and can lead to severe consequences. Employees who experience indirect or direct religious discrimination in the workplace must take the necessary actions to stand up for themselves and protect their rights.
Applicants or employees who believe they experience religious discrimination because of their religious beliefs should immediately contact our office for legal advice.
At Levine & Blit, we offer free consultations with experienced attorneys regarding all aspects of religious discrimination and retaliation claims. In addition, we help people seeking justice file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and navigate the complex process of obtaining redress. Contact us online or call us at (212) 967-3000 if you have experienced religious discrimination.