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A report released late last month from the California offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported that discrimination against Muslims in California is on the rise. Muslims reported 933 instances of discrimination to CAIR during 2013, which is up from 854 complaints in 2012. Of those complaints, 282 were from the San Francisco Bay area.

The largest percentage of complaints came from individuals who claim they were discriminated against in some aspect of employment. Complaints about FBI and other law enforcement agencies were a close second. Some of the complaints did not come from Muslims, but from people who appeared to others to be Muslim but were not.

Some of the complaints of California Muslims involving employment discrimination included that they were harassed by co-workers and managers, they were denied religious accommodation requests, and were retaliated against after complaining about harassment or making requests for religious accommodations. Specifically, some complaints alleged that co-workers made harassing comments about terrorism, politics or religion. Another large group of complaints involved employers not allowing employees to wear hijab, grow beards, take breaks to pray or take time off to celebrate Eid. Others complained they weren’t hired because they were Muslim.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibit discrimination or harassment by an employer against employees on the basis of religions, race, sex, national origin, and other characteristics. If the harassment on the basis of race, religion, national origin, etc. is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment, that is illegal. An employer is legally obligated to ensure that its employees are not subjected to insults about their religion, harassment about religion, or any unwanted and excessive proselytizing. While it may not be illegal for a co-worker to make an occasional joke about the Muslim religion, or to invite the Muslim employee to come to church, if the jokes are excessive, and the co-worker preaches to the Muslim extensively about Christianity, that behavior is most likely illegal.

In addition to forbidding employment discrimination on the basis of religion, the law also requires an employer to accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs and practices. However, if the accommodation would be considered an undue hardship for the employer, an accommodation is not legally required. For example, if a Muslim worker needed short breaks during the day in which to pray, an employer may be required to provide those, and can ask the employee to make up those hours at another time.

In some cases, an employee will complain to the employer or a governmental agency about discrimination in the workplace. In some cases, the employer will then decide to retaliate against the employee for making a complaint. The employer may decide to reduce the employee’s hours, fire the employee, reduce the employee’s pay or take other illegal actions. These actions are all illegal, and the employer can be sued for violating the employee’s legal rights. In other cases, an employer may decide to terminate an employee because of his or her religion. That is also illegal under both federal and state law.

Fortunately, federal and state laws are designed to protect workers from discrimination. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that no one should be discriminated at work on the basis of their religion or other protected characteristics. If you have been discriminated against in the Oakland – San Francisco Bay area, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland religious discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She works hard on behalf of her clients throughout the area to help them get the justice they deserve. Call to learn more.



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