Best Ohio Religion Discrimination Employment Attorney Answer: Can my boss make me participate in religious activities? Can my employer make me participate in a belief system? Can I be fired for refusing to do religious activities? What should I do if I was wrongfully terminated today?
In the spirit (no pun intended) of continuing their tradition of only pursuing discrimination claims that are designed to change the meaning of the law or otherwise sure to get media attention (and ignoring most other claims), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently filed a lawsuit against United Health Programs of America and Cost Containment Group, Inc for. religious discrimination, alleging that the insurers forced its employees to take part in religious activities at work. And the best part? The religion in question, known by its believers as “Onionhead,” was founded by the relative of one of the founders of the companies.
The lawsuit alleges that “Employees were told [to] wear Onionhead buttons, pull Onionhead cards to place near their work stations and keep only dim lighting in the workplace.” The lawsuit also alleges that workers also had to take part in group prayers, burning candles, and “discussions of spiritual texts.” Employees who were not interested or who protested the practice of this belief system at work were fired.
As our religion discrimination lawyers have blogged before, employers cannot force employees to take part in religious activity at work. Likewise, both Ohio and Federal law make it unlawful for an employer to “discharge without just cause, to refuse to hire, or otherwise to discriminate against that person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment” any employee because of their religion.”
One of the issues that will likely be heavily litigated in this eye-watering case is whether the Onionhead is a religion at all. However, in light of the broad definition of “religion” provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which expressly includes “not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others,” those who find the Onionhead stinky or distasteful to their right to be free from religious discrimination at work have a strong likelihood of prevailing.
However, the key to this case is not the religion that the employer is pushing, but that the activities required would go against the religious beliefs of the employees. As such, I think the EEOC will be making a big mistake if they argue that forcing “dim lighting” is a violation of Title VII. Why? It would not go against a Jewish or Hindu worker’ religious beliefs to work in the dim light. Think about Chick-Fil-A’s policy of being closed on Sunday because of religious beliefs. Somebody that does not share those same religious beliefs, would not have a case based on the fact that they are precluded from working on Sunday. The lack of Sunday work or dim lights does not interfere with the employee’s religious beliefs.
On the other hand, forcing employees to take part in prayer groups based on a religion different is a clear violation of Title VII and Ohio R.C. § 4112.99, as does forcing discussions of spiritual texts.
If you feel that you are being discriminated or harassed based on your religion or religious beliefs or that you were wrongfully terminated because of you are Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu or any other religion, the best course of action you can take is to call the right attorney at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, you will meet with a religious discrimination attorney, who will be able to tell you what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them.
The materials available at the top of this religious discrimination blog and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I …”, “What should I do …,” “Can my boss discriminate against me because I’m (Jewish/Muslim/Mormon/Hindu)?” or “I was fired for my religious beliefs. The answer to “What can I do?”, is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular religious discrimination or other employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.