Female employee praying at her desk

Religion and the Workplace: Navigating Religious Discrimination and Your Rights as an Employee

In today's diverse workplaces, religious discrimination is a pressing issue that demands careful attention. It is essential for all employees to understand their rights to ensure they are not discriminated against or marginalized based on their religious beliefs.

Understanding Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination manifests when an employee is subjected to unfavorable treatment because of their religious beliefs. Violations of the right to be free from religious discrimination can affect adherents of major organized religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also those who have sincerely held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs. It is unlawful to discriminate against any individual concerning hiring, termination, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, or any other aspect of employment due to their religious beliefs or practices.

Your Rights Under the Law

While many state and local laws prohibit religious discrimination in employment, the primary federal legislation prohibiting religious discrimination in the workplace is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating based on religion.

Employers are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs or practices. This duty persists unless it would cause an undue hardship to the employer. Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Groff v. DeJoy, 143 S. Ct. 2279 (2023), and “undue hardship is shown when a burden is substantial in the overall context of an employer’s business,” “tak[ing] into account all relevant factors in the case at hand, including the particular accommodations at issue and their practical impact in light of the nature, size, and operating cost of an employer.”

A reasonable accommodation could include:

  • Flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps;
  • Job reassignments, workplace policies or practices modifications; and,
  • Exceptions to dress or grooming rules.

When an employee or job applicant needs an accommodation for religious reasons, they should notify the employer that they need an accommodation due to their religious beliefs and/or practices. The regulations require that an employer engage the employee in an interactive process to discuss the accommodation request. If it would not pose an undue hardship, the employer must make an accommodation.

Advocating for Yourself

If you believe you have been subject to religious discrimination, it is crucial to take immediate action. Document the incidents in detail, including dates, times, locations, people involved, and what was said or done. Report the incident to your supervisor, human resources department, or whoever is designated to handle such complaints in your organization.

If your employer fails to address the issue adequately, you may file a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state or local anti-discrimination agency that can investigate your complaint. If they find evidence of discrimination, they may take action against your employer or grant you the right to sue.

Seek Legal Assistance

Navigating religious discrimination in the workplace can be complex and emotionally taxing. At Nichols Kaster PLLP, we protect your rights and ensure justice. Our expertise and experience can help you understand your situation, guide you through the legal process, and advocate fiercely on your behalf.

If you believe you have been subjected to religious discrimination in the workplace, contact Nichols Kaster PLLP right away. Let us be your ally in the fight for fairness and justice.