Treating a person differently in the workplace because of his or her religion, whether the person is an employee or a job applicant, is illegal under both federal and state law. Under federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes religious workplace discrimination illegal. In California, religious discrimination in the workplace is illegal under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Ending Workplace Discrimination

Specifically, those laws make it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their religion when it comes to any aspect of employment, which could include hiring, firing, layoffs, benefits, pay, job assignments, or any other term of employment. The law also prevents an employer from treating someone differently in the workplace because that person is married to or is associated with a person of a particular religion. For example, it would be illegal for a Muslim employer to fire an employee if he or she found out the employee was married to a Jewish individual.

Types of Religious Harassment in the Workplace

Title VII and the Fair Employment and Housing Act also make it illegal to harass someone in the workplace because of their religion. Harassment could include offensive remarks about a person’s religion or religious practices. If a person is simply teased very occasionally or the harassment is very isolated, the behavior may not be illegal. However, if the harassment is so serious or happens so often that it creates a hostile work environment, the conduct is illegal and the victim can sue.

Another way in which religious discrimination at work can occur is if an employer segregates employees because of their religion. For example, if an employer decided that an employee who wore a lot of religious garb to work should be assigned to work in a position in which the employer did not have contact with customers specifically so they wouldn’t be exposed to the religious clothing that could be considered discrimination.

Employers are required to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. This could include schedule changes or leave for religious events, religious dress and religious practices. However, an employer is only required to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices. An employer isn’t required to accommodate any requests that would cause more than a minimal burden on the employer’s business, including requests that were very expensive, compromised safety, or infringed on the rights of other employees. For example, an employer may be required to allow his or her employees to take short breaks in which to pray a few times a day. However, a grocery store probably wouldn’t be required to hire an employee who couldn’t touch pork products because of religious reasons.

Employers may also not force employees to participate or to not participate in a religious activity as a condition of employment, unless the employer is a religious organization. For example, an employer can’t ask that all employees go to a monthly morning prayer breakfast or wear Jewish yarmulkes.

Steps You Can Take If You Are Experiencing Religious Discrimination or Harassment

Employees who are discriminated against because of their religion have a short period of time in which to make a complaint. A time limitation also applies to filing state and federal lawsuits over religious discrimination. Therefore, if you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of religion, it’s important to contact an employment law attorney for advice as quickly as possible.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that no employee should be discriminated against on the basis of religion. If you have been unfairly discriminated against in the workplace in the San Francisco area, including Oakland, Hayward, Fairfield, Tracy or Berkeley, call Micha Star Liberty at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000. She works hard on behalf of her clients to obtain compensation for their mistreatment. Call her today.

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