RELIGION

Religious Discrimination

The United States Constitution gives each of us an absolute right to hold our own opinions and beliefs. Additionally, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits private employers of 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees and job applicants because of their religion (or lack of religious belief) with regard to any aspect of employment such as hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits or other terms and conditions of employment. This law also prohibits job segregation based on religion, including the reassignment of employees to other jobs due to actual or perceived customer preferences.

Religious discrimination occurs when an individual is treated unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. This law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Religious discrimination may include treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion. Also, it is unlawful to force an employee to participate or not participate in a religious activity as a condition of employment.

Under Title VII, employees must file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the discriminatory action.  This is a strict deadline.  You will lose some of the most important federal claims available to you if you do not file a charge with the EEOC.  If you have already missed the deadline, it is still important to reach out to an attorney to discuss your options.

Religious Accommodation
A religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment to allow an individual employee to practice his or her religion.  Under the Title VII, employers are required to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of applicants and employees, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden to the employer’s business operation.

Whether a particular accommodation poses an undue hardship on the employer's business operation will depend on the circumstances.  If an accommodation is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, affects the rights of other employees or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work, the accommodation may be an undue hardship on the employer.

After an employee notifies the employer of an accommodation request, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request.  If it would not pose an undue hardship, the employer should grant the accommodation.

Religious Accommodation May Include:

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Leave for religious observances
  • Dress or grooming practices
  • Observance of religious prohibitions against wearing certain garments
  • Voluntary shift substitutions or swaps
  • Job reassignments
  • Lateral transfers
  • Exceptions to dress or grooming rules
  • Modifications to workplace policies or practices

Harassment
Religious harassment of employees, such as offensive remarks about a person's religious beliefs or practices is unlawful if it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as firing or demoting the victim).  The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Retaliation
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on religion or for filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding or Title VII litigation.

Examples of Religious Discrimination

  • Unfavorable treatment because of one’s beliefs
  • Harassment because of one’s religion
  • Offensive remarks regarding one’s religious practices, creating a hostile work environment
  • Segregating an employee because of that employee’s religious beliefs
  • Failing to accommodate religious practices in dressing and grooming

If you have been subjected to discrimination because of your beliefs, contact Rich Daugherty.  He is experienced in representing clients who have been victims of this discrimination in the workplace and will fight to protect your rights.

You can arrange for an initial phone conference with Rich at no charge.  He represents clients throughout North Carolina and is available to meet with prospective clients outside of Chapel Hill when circumstances permit.  Evening appointments are also available.

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