Laws against Religious Discrimination

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title VII of that Act protect employees and students from religious discrimination in the workplace and in the educational setting. Employers cannot discriminate against their employees or prospective employees on the basis of their religion. This means that they cannot treat employees or job applicants more or less favorably on the basis of their religious beliefs or practices. This means that employees cannot be hired, fired, withheld benefits, wrongfully terminated, withheld a promotion or withheld a certain salary because of their religious beliefs or practices. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor organizations. Employees must also not be forced into participating in religious activities as a condition of employment. Employers must also accommodate their employees’ religious beliefs and holidays or face hardship on their business interests as well as fines if a complaint is filed against the employer. For instance, if a Jewish employee wishes to take time off for Hanukkah and the employer denies the time off, that employee can file a charge of religious discrimination against the employer with the EEOC. Employers must also take steps to prevent religious harassment at their workplace by other members of management and employees.

If you feel you have been discriminated against or have questions about discrimination, contact a lawyer who can help.

Religious discrimination includes:

  • Direct discrimination: this happens when somebody does not like your religious or philosophical beliefs, you don’t have the same religious or philosophical beliefs as someone else, or someone associates you with somebody whose religious or philosophical beliefs they don’t like.
  • Indirect discrimination: this happens when an organization has policies, criteria or processes that put you at a disadvantage because of your religious or philosophical beliefs, or because you have none, this may be indirect discrimination.
  • Harassment: harassment happens when someone is intimidated, frightened, or distressed because of their religious beliefs.
  • Victimization: this happens when a person is treated badly because they have made a complaint about discrimination or have given evidence in a discrimination case. Victimization can include labeling the complainant as a troublemaker, denying them opportunities or services they would normally have, or ignoring them.
  • Hate crimes: this happens when someone threatens, abuses, or attacks another person because of their religious beliefs. Hate crimes include physical attacks and damage to personal property, offensive letters, emails, or phone calls, groups of people intimidating you, insults or offensive leaflets or posters, dumping rubbish outside your home or bullying at school or work.

Employers are required to make accommodations for their employees to avoid religious discrimination and if they do not make proper accommodations than they can be sued by their employees. Such accommodations are:

  • Flexible Scheduling
  1. flexible arrival and departure times
  2. floating or optional holidays
  3. flexible work breaks
  4. working lunch in exchange for early departure
  5. permitting employees to make up time lost due to religious observance
  • Voluntary substitutes and swaps or shifts, assignments, etc.
  • Lateral transfer and/or change of job assignment
  • Modifying workplace practices, policies and/or procedures

Behavior that is conducive of harassment in the workplace, at public places, or in educational institutions because of a person’s religious beliefs is also protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII protects Americans from harassment based on their religious beliefs.

If you feel you have been discriminated against or have questions about discrimination, contact a lawyer who can help.