Religious Discrimination Article

Religious Discrimination

The United States Constitution gives each individual an absolute right to hold their own opinions and beliefs. Additionally, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits covered employers of 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees and applicants because of their religion (or absence of a religious belief) with regard to any aspect of employment such as hiring, firing, compensation, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, or other terms and conditions of employment. Discrimination may also occur when the victim and the perpetrator are both of the same religion.

Examples of Discrimination

  • Unfavorable treatment due to one’s religious or areligious beliefs
  • Refusing a promotion due to an employee’s religion
  • Imposing different work requirements on employees because of their religion
  • Segregating an employee because of that employee’s religious beliefs
  • Dismissing employees because of their religion
  • Deciding not to hire applicants due to their religion
  • Refusing to recruit, hire, or promote individuals because they practice a religion
  • Refusing to hire because applicant’s name is associated with a particular religion
  • Paying employees less because of their religion
  • Refusing to hire to avoid a religious accommodation

Hostile Work Environment (Harassment)

Title VII also prohibits the harassment of an employee due to religion.  Harassment is the unwelcome treatment of an employee due to religion that is frequent or severe enough to alter working conditions and create a demeaning or abusive atmosphere (hostile work environment).  It is critical that you notify management of the harassment.  If possible, do so in writing and save a copy for documentation.  Once an employer knows about the harassment, it is obligated to take effective action to stop it.

This unlawful conduct may include the use of slurs or name-calling, workplace graffiti, threats, inappropriate jokes or gestures, isolation, exclusion, work interference, undermining of authority, humiliation, or other mistreatment.  The harasser may be a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or client.  The harasser may be of the same religion as well.


It is also unlawful to punish an employee for complaining to the employer about being discriminated against due to religion or opposing religious discrimination against another employee.  Title VII further prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for filing an EEOC discrimination charge, testifying or participating in an investigation about discrimination, assisting in an EEOC proceeding or lawsuit, or opposing employment practices that an employee reasonably believes discriminate against another individual in violation of the law.

Retaliation includes adverse actions such as demotions, disciplinary actions, terminations, and other forms of punishment that tend to dissuade employees from complaining about discrimination. For more information about legally protected activities and examples of unlawful retaliation, see Retaliation page.

Religious Accommodation

A religious accommodation is a minor adjustment to a job that allows an employee to practice his or her religion.  Under Title VII, employers are required to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of employees and applicants.  However, in doing so, employers are not required to absorb more than a minimal cost or other burden to their business.

Whether a particular accommodation is unreasonable (imposing an undue hardship on the employer's business) depends on the circumstances.  For example, 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.

When an employee notifies the employer of an accommodation request, the employer and the employee should discuss the request. If the employer cannot provide the employee’s preferred accommodation, the employer should determine if an alternative accommodation can be provided.

Examples of Accommodation

  • Adjustment to a work schedule to allow for a religious practice
  • Leave from work for religious observances
  • Voluntary shift substitutions or swaps
  • Job reassignments
  • Lateral transfers
  • Exceptions to employer rules about dress and grooming
  • Modifications to workplace policies or practices

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, private sector employees must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 calendar days of a discriminatory action. You will forfeit important legal rights if you do not file a timely charge with the EEOC. If you’ve already missed a deadline, call to discuss your options.

In addition to federal law, the Wrongful Discharge Against Public Policy (WDPP) law of North Carolina prohibits covered employers from firing employees due to religion.  Because the deadline for filing a WDPP claim has fluctuated in recent years, it is recommended that claims be filed without delay.  (See Wrongful Termination page)

If you’ve been subjected to religious discrimination, contact Rich Daugherty.  Whether your employment has been wrongfully terminated, you’re in fear of losing your job unlawfully, or you’re stuck in an untenable situation, contact Rich.

In addition to litigating cases, Rich negotiates confidential severance agreements and executive exit agreements favorable to his clients.

Rich offers a one-on-one relationship with his clients. He will stand by your side every step of the way to resolve your case fairly.

Rich represents clients from across North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and more. He is available to meet with prospective clients outside of Chapel Hill when circumstances permit. Evening appointments are also available.

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