Citizens of the United States have the fundamental right to practice whatever religion they wish. However, even to this day, the right to practice a religion is in constant threat in many places. Religious discrimination in the workplace, when an employer or others at work treat an employee less favorably because of their religion or lack thereof, happens more commonly than you may think.
According to the Equality Act of 2010, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, every worker’s right to practice their own religion is protected, regardless of their employer’s religion or the religion of others. It is unlawful for an employer to violate these rights, however, there are many forms of religious discrimination that still occur in the workplace, including:
- Direct religious discrimination: The most obvious form of religious discrimination, direct discrimination occurs when an employer outright treats someone differently than other employees because of their religion. Examples of this include dismissing or firing someone based on religion, refusing to hire someone based on their religion, unequal pay based on religious beliefs, or refusing to promote an employee because of their religion. Employers are also responsible for other employees should they commit direct religious discrimination.
- Harassment: Harassment, either physically or verbally, is bullying an employee because of their religion, which is also a form of direct discrimination. Anyone could be the harasser in the workplace: the employer, coworkers, even clients or customers. It is not limited to simple teasing, however, as it also includes harassment so severe that it creates a hostile work environment, such as forcing an employee to quit.
- Victimization: Victimization is when an employee files a grievance because of direct or indirect religious discrimination, but then it causes further ill-treatment from their colleagues or employer. The employee could be demoted, ignored, denied the opportunity to progress, or unfairly disciplined simply for sharing their concerns. This is another form of direct religious discrimination.
- Indirect religious discrimination: Indirect religious discrimination occurs when an employer sets forth rules that apply to all workers but adversely affect those who have certain religious beliefs. Examples of this include forcing a dress code that excludes those that wear certain clothing for their religion, setting a work schedule that unfairly prevents employees from taking off due to a religious holiday, or banning certain clothing items or hairstyles, such as a hijab for Muslim women. Failure to accommodate those with certain religious beliefs is also a form of indirect religious discrimination.
It is important to note that an employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious belief if doing so would cause the employer an undue hardship. This means that if the accommodation for an employee is costly, makes others unsafe, decreases workplace efficiency, or infringes on the rights of other employees, then the employer does not have to provide the accommodation.
Prohibited Actions by Employers
By law, there are several actions an employer is prohibited from engaging in, such as:
- Unjustly dismissing an employee or treating them unfairly due to their religion, religious beliefs, or practicing of religion.
- Scheduling in ways that conflict with a current or prospective employee’s religious belief or refusing to allow observance of a religious holiday, such as requiring work on Sunday for Christians.
- Maintain a restrictive dress code that does not allow those with certain religions to practice.
- Refusing to hire or promote someone because of their religion.
- Impose certain promotion requirements for someone based on their religion.
- Prohibiting someone of a certain religion to receive the same benefits and pay as an employee with the same experience and title.
- Refusing to hire someone because they do not share a religious belief.
- Imposing different work requirements on an employee because of their beliefs or religious practices.
- Refusing to hire someone because they may need a reasonable accommodation for their religion.
- Refusing to hire or recruit someone because they have a name associated with certain religions, such as someone with a Muslim name.
How to Address Workplace Religious Discrimination?
If you are experiencing religious discrimination at your workplace, or discrimination of any form, you should address the issue right away. Here are a few tips to do so appropriately:
- Speak up against the offender. If you are experiencing discrimination, either directly or indirectly, speak directly to the person. Let it be known that discrimination is a violation of your rights and that it is a serious matter. If you do not address the situation immediately, it will likely occur again.
- Speak to your supervisor as soon as possible. Document the offending party’s behavior, and speak to their supervisor right away. Request a meeting with the manager and make it clear you want the behavior to stop.
- File a complaint. You could then file a complaint to your employer as well as to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Filing a complaint lets your employer and other employees know that discrimination is a serious issue and must be dealt with immediately.
- Seek legal assistance. Discuss your experience with a lawyer, as they will go over your rights, help build your case, and discuss what options you can take next.
How to File a Charge With the EEOC?
If you have been discriminated at work because of your religion, religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs, then you can file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, which is a signed statement. It is important to note that you must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC before filing a job discrimination lawsuit against your employer. You should also know:
- There is a time limit of 180 days from the date the discrimination took place to file a charge with the EEOC. It is extended to 300 days if the state where you are employed has a law prohibiting the same employment discrimination.
- Your employer will be notified that a charge of discrimination has been filed against them.
- An individual, organization or an agency may file the charge on your behalf to protect your identity.
- After submitting an online inquiry and you are interviewed by the EEOC, you may submit the charge of discrimination through the EEOC public portal online. You may also find the closes EEOC office near you to discuss the matter.
It is a serious matter to file a charge of discrimination. You may speak with someone at the EEOC in the interview to assess if this is the best course of action and how to address your concerns. If the laws do not apply to your claims, was not within the time limit, or the investigation is limited, then the EEOC will dismiss the charge and notify you of your rights.
There are also local jurisdictions that have their own anti-discrimination laws, as well as agencies that enforce them. Before deciding to file a charge of discrimination, it is highly recommended to not do so on your own and to seek legal help from a lawyer.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Help Workers Facing Religious Discrimination
If you are dealing with religious discrimination, know that you do not have to face it alone. One of our experienced Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can help you today. We will help build your case and protect your rights. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Marlton, Moorestown, and Mount Laurel.