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Examples of Employment Religious Discrimination

Posted on July 27, 2020

The United States Constitution protects the right for all of us to practice the religion we choose, or no religion at all. However, religion can be a very sensitive subject — and some people may commit acts of discrimination against people who have different beliefs than they do. This discrimination can occur anywhere, including at school and in the workplace.

Religious discrimination is illegal under federal labor laws, and if you believe you experienced these acts of discrimination in the workplace, you may be eligible for financial compensation through a lawsuit against your former employer. Here are a few examples of what religious discrimination looks like in action.

#1: Unfair Hiring Practices

One major avenue religious discrimination appears in the workplace is through the hiring process. An employer cannot refuse to recruit or hire an applicant based on his or her religious background. If a potential hire does not share the employer’s religious beliefs, the employer cannot use this fact as the basis for denying the applicant a position.

Sometimes, religious discrimination occurs long before the interview process. If an applicant has a name associated with a particular religion and the employer refuses to consider the applicant for hire based on this belief, this is also an act of religious discrimination.

At no time can an employer ask an applicant questions about his or her religion, availability during certain times of the year important to the applicant’s religion, or use any religion-based criteria to make a hiring decision. If a potential employer is asking personal questions about your religious beliefs during an interview, he or she may be committing an act of religious discrimination.

#2: Failure to Provide Reasonable Accommodations

Employers must make reasonable religious accommodations to the work environment in order for employees to freely practice their religions. These accommodations may include flexible scheduling, reassignment of duties, and time off to observe religious holidays. An employee may also be exempt from a restrictive dress code if it conflicts with his or her religious views.

An employer must comply with these reasonable accommodations unless he or she can prove that the accommodations would cause undue hardship, or poses a significant financial burden or safety risk to the business’s operations.

For example, if a Jewish cashier at a major retailer asks for a day off to observe a religious holiday, it would not be an instance of undue hardship since it would only impact the employer for a single day and he or she can find another employee to cover the shift.

On the other hand, if a female Pentecostal employee at a steel mill asks to wear a skirt while working with heavy machinery, this would pose a significant risk to her safety, although this dress code is a tenet of her religious beliefs. The employer would have the right to deny this request due to undue hardship.

#3: Unfair Work, Termination, or Promotion Criteria

Employers cannot impact an employee’s work duties, or impose stricter or different work requirements, based on his or her religion. An employer also cannot fire an employee because of his or her religion, or in retaliation to reasonable religious accommodation requests.

For example, say a Muslim cashier wears a headscarf while working. Her employer reassigns her to the warehouse portion of the store because she isn’t following the dress code prohibiting head coverings and he doesn’t want customers to interact with her. This would be an act of religious discrimination since the employer is changing an employee’s job duties based on her religious beliefs.

An employer also cannot make promotion or termination decisions based on an employee’s religion. For example, if a Baptist employer promotes a Baptist employee to a higher position over a Catholic employee with better qualifications and more work experience, and bases the promotion decision on the religious identities of both employees, this would be religious discrimination.

Do You Need an Illinois Employment Attorney?

Any act of religious discrimination is a violation of U.S. federal law. If you believe your employer discriminated against you based on your religious beliefs in any way, contact an Arizona employment attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will evaluate your case and help you understand if you have grounds for a lawsuit.