Religion in the Workplace
What is Discrimination for Religion in the Workplace?
Do you believe you have been the victim of discrimination at your workplace because of your religion? Has your employer taken adverse employment action against you? Do you worry about losing your job because of your religious views? Call today or submit the online contact form below to talk with an experienced local attorney.
Both federal and state laws protect employees from religious discrimination at work. In general terms, employees should not have to face termination or another form of adverse employment action because of their religious views or practices. They also should be free from retaliation for filing a claim or otherwise asserting their rights.
Unfortunately, religion in the workplace often causes problems for employees. To know how to protect your legal interests and save your career, you must understand these legal protections and your options.
Legal Protections for Employees’ Religion in the Workplace
In the U.S., employers have the opportunity to hire employees from many different religious backgrounds. Still, practicing religion often requires attending services, observing certain holidays, wearing special clothing or behaving in other unique ways.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees based on religion, race, national origin, color or sex. All states also have their own religious-based protections for employees and applicants.
Federal and state laws typically protect individuals from discrimination based on their religion or perceived religion. To avoid religious discrimination in the workplace, most employers have an affirmative obligation to accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees.
Among other protections, the law covers four broad areas:
- Disparate treatment
- Disparate impact
- Hostile work environment
Disparate treatment is simply treating employees differently from others because of an immutable characteristic. If your employer does not treat you the same as other workers because of your religion or religious practices in the workplace, you may have a valid disparate treatment claim.
For example, in an interview, a hiring manager may explain the company only hires members that belong to a certain faith. If you are not a member of that religious group, you may be the victim of disparate impact discrimination.
Discrimination does not have to be so clear-cut, though. If an employer changes your work schedule, cuts your pay, demotes you or takes any other adverse employment action due to your religious beliefs, you may have a legal cause of action.
Many employers realize practices that disadvantage members of certain religious groups are legally unacceptable. Therefore, you may never encounter a situation where someone in the workplace uses your religion or religious beliefs as a reason to take adverse employment action.
Fortunately, the law does not require employers to be so bold with their discriminatory actions.
Disparate impact is usually subtler than disparate treatment. With this type of impermissible employment discrimination, your employer’s policies have a negative effect on employees from specific religious groups.
For example, your employer may prohibit employees from wearing hats or anything else on their heads. If you are a member of a religion that requires a head covering or wrap, your employer’s policy is likely discriminatory. This is true even if the policy seems neutral on its face.
Hostile work environment
Even if your employer seems to be accepting of various religions, you may have a valid religious-based discrimination claim because of a hostile workplace. This occurs when your manager or co-workers make your work life miserable.
For example, your colleagues may insult, threaten or harass you for your religious beliefs or practices. Even if you are not a member of a religious group, you may have a genuine hostile work environment cause of action due to your perceived religious affiliation.
You have a right to notify your employer about religious discrimination. You also have a right to file an official discrimination claim without facing retaliation. In fact, both federal and state laws prohibit employers from taking adverse employment action against employees for asserting their legal rights.
Retaliation happens when an employer punishes an applicant, employee or former employee for complaining about religious discrimination in the workplace. Retaliation may be either minor, such as changing shifts, or major, like termination of employment.
The Process of Filing a Claim
If you suspect your employer is engaging in impermissible religious discrimination, you likely must act quickly to protect your legal interests and save your career. Still, because each state has its own procedure for filing a discrimination claim, you should familiarize yourself with the laws of your state.
For religious discrimination, though, you can probably file a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Before doing so, you may choose to notify your employer about the discrimination you face at work. This is not a requirement for filing a federal complaint, however.
After you file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, you can expect federal officials to conduct some type of investigation. After the investigation is complete, the EEOC may decide to file suit against your employer. This may result in financial compensation or other remedies for you.
If the EEOC decides not to take up the matter on your behalf, the commission will likely send you a right-to-sue letter. This letter does not address the merits of your case. Instead, it merely gives you the right to explore legal remedies on your own. Once you have this letter, you can decide whether suing your employer is in your legal interests.
Again, you may also have a separate cause of action with your state’s employment law enforcement agency. In other words, you must know how your state’s laws treat religion in the workplace to determine how to proceed.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
Because employment law can be tremendously complex, you may have trouble navigating it without the assistance of an experienced local lawyer.
If you decide to hire an attorney, you can expect your lawyer to handle the intricacies of your religious-based discrimination claim. This includes exploring your legal options, preparing legal documents and representing you in court.
Your employment lawyer may also assist you with pursuing a settlement with your employer.
Put simply, you do not want to leave your employment matter to chance. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!