Religious freedom has recently been claimed to justify acts of discrimination in both the public and private spheres—from refusing service to legislative acts in the name of religion that deny the rights of individuals. Unfortunately, unfounded fears, stereotypes, and prejudices have led to harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC has recognized the underlying tensions and the very real impact in the workplace and has issued a fact sheet to help employees understand their rights and prevent religious discrimination.
Religious freedom has recently been claimed to justify acts of discrimination in both the public and private spheres—from refusing service to legislative acts in the name of religion that deny the rights of individuals. In the U.S. and worldwide, tensions have been heightened as a result of Islamic extremism, which has increased religious discrimination and harassment, even acts of hate that target the Muslim community.
Unfortunately, unfounded fears, stereotypes, and prejudices have led to harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recognized the underlying tensions and the very real impact in the workplace. To better protect workers, the EEOC has issued a fact sheet to help employees understand their rights and to prevent religious discrimination.
What is religious discrimination?
Religious discrimination is any unfavorable treatment against an applicant or employee as a result of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects individuals who belong to a traditional organized religion (including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, or Islam), newer or less common religions, as well as individuals who have sincerely held ethical or moral beliefs.
I was denied a job or fired because of my religion—what can I do?
State and federal laws prohibits religious discrimination related to any aspect of employment, including failure to hire, lower pay, denied promotion, layoffs, or any other term or condition of employment. If you believe that you suffered religious discrimination you should consult with an experienced attorney regarding your case. You may be entitled to compensation.
Other employees have made disparaging comments about my religious beliefs—is this illegal?
It is illegal to harass an individual because of his or her religious beliefs. Teasing, an offhand comment or an isolated incident on its own may not necessarily be illegal; however, your situation may be considered illegal harassment if the harassment becomes so severe or frequent that it creates a hostile work environment or if it results in demotion or termination. The harasser could be a supervisor, a co-worker, or even a client or customer.
Can an employer force me to remove my religious attire while on the clock?
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices and beliefs unless it would be an undue hardship on the operation of business. This applies to absence for religious observances or dress and grooming practices. When an employee needs a dress or accommodation for religious purposes, he or she should notify the employer. If it would not pose an undue hardship the employer must grant the religious accommodation.
Instances of undue hardship are varied. An employer may deny the accommodation if it is too costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.
Have you suffered religious discrimination in Minnesota?
Religious discrimination in the workplace is on the rise. According to the EEOC, there were over 3,500 allegations of religious discrimination in 2015 alone. Since 2010, the EEOC has filed 73 lawsuits involving claims of religious discrimination—many involve individuals who are or perceived to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent. These claims may also be related to religious garb and grooming in the workplace. Employers should note that the EEOC has placed an enhanced focus on religious harassment and discrimination and they should follow guidelines to prevent harassment claims. This means that employers should provide reasonable accommodations to any employee who makes a request for religious reasons.
If you have suffered religious discrimination or harassment, our attorneys want to hear from you. Wanta Thome PLC is currently investigating cases related to religious discrimination in the workplace. Contact us at 612-252-3570 or click here for more information or to discuss your case.