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Is Religion Discrimination in the Workplace Legal?

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

Federal law makes religion discrimination in the workplace illegal. This means that you cannot be treated differently based on your religion or their strongly held moral beliefs - regardless of what that religion is. This issue has become more prevalent since the pandemic as some employees have sought religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine, for example.

Quick Facts About Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

  • Firing someone based on their religion is religious discrimination.

  • Giving people different assignments because of their religion is illegal.

  • Changing the benefits or pay rate offered because of a person’s religion is illegal.

  • Offering different terms of employment based on religion is illegal.

  • Harassing an employee because of their religion is illegal.

  • Harassment is illegal whether it is a supervisor doing it, a co-worker or a customer.

What is Religion Discrimination in the Workplace?

If an employer is treating an employee differently because of their religion it is discrimination. Religious exemptions are based on this law to ensure that no discrimination takes place. If you feel you are the victim of religious discrimination you should speak with an employment attorney.

Below are a few examples of religious discrimination in the workplace.

An employer makes an offensive remark about a person’s region, what they believe or how they practice their religion. For example, “All people of your faith are lazy. They just want to take off special holidays while the rest of us work.” Or a customer saying, “I don’t know why you hire people of that religion. I would never work with someone like that.”

It’s also considered religious discrimination if people are segregated at work based on their beliefs, what they wear, how they groom themselves, etc. when that is related to their moral beliefs. For example, if all people who wear head coverings are forced to work in the back where customers can’t see them that is illegal.

Religious discrimination also applies when an employer refuses to offer a reasonable accommodation to allow for religious practices. For example, an employer may need to adjust the schedule to allow for someone to take their Sabbath off or to be off on a religious holiday. They may require the time to be made up on a different day, but they are supposed to let an employee take the time to complete their religious observance.

Employers cannot require employees to change their attire, cut their hair, remove a headscarf, etc. when doing so would be against their religious beliefs. For example, an employer cannot force someone to take off a Jewish yarmulke or force a Sikh to cut their beard. Simultaneously, it is religious discrimination to force someone to wear something that is against their religious beliefs, such as forcing them to wear a low-cut top. Firing them because they won’t is wrongful termination.

Have You Suffered Religion Discrimination in the Workplace?

Religious discrimination in the workplace is illegal, but it’s still common. In some cases, employers are unaware of the law and need an attorney to tell them what they are required to do. Situations at work can sometimes be resolved through negotiation to ensure, for example, that an employee can dress appropriately, take time off to observe religious holidays, etc. We also represent victims of religious discrimination who have been financially harmed or wrongfully terminated. In both scenarios, the best course of action is to schedule a free consultation to speak with an employment attorney.

Keep in mind that this blog is for informational purposes only and not legal advice. For that, you need to speak with an attorney. Fortunately, the Quinn Law Group offers free consultations.

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