Best Ohio Religious Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can I be forced to work on Sunday and miss Church? What happens if I am fired for attending a church event that is not a traditional religious service? Does the law protect me if I take time off from work for a mandatory church community service event? Was I wrongfully fired because of my religious activities?
Religious discrimination in the workplace in certainly prevalent and often presents straightforward cases of discrimination when religious slurs are used or termination, demotion or discipline of an employee is motivated by that employee’s religion. However, religious discrimination can also be in incredible thorny and there are some ambiguous issue when it comes to religious accommodation, which is required under Ohio and federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio R.C. § 4112.02). Our employment law attorneys and lawyers have see it all when it comes to religious discrimination.
When a company rejects an employee’s request for a religious accommodation, the analysis of whether or not the employer’s conduct ran afoul of the law is largely done on a case-by-case basis. The employee must prove both that they hold sincere (“bona fide”) religious convictions, and that the activities to be accommodated constitute true religious beliefs.
In a recent case decided by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court determined whether an employer’s termination of an employee constituted religious discrimination. Specifically, in Davis v. Fort Bend Cty., the plaintiff was responsible for supervising a staff of IT employees. The defendant, in 2011, was preparing to open a new courthouse. Defendant ordered the IT staff to be available to transfer the computers over the July 4th weekend. Plaintiff informed her supervisor that she was unavailable that weekend, citing a conflict with a church event:
On June 28, 2011, Davis informed Ford that she would not be available to work the morning of Sunday July 3, 2011, allegedly ‘due to a previous religious commitment.’ Davis testified that ‘[i]t was a special church service, and that I needed to be off that Sunday[,] . . . but I would be more than willing to come in after church services.’ Davis also testified that she had arranged for a replacement during her absence, as she had done in the past.
When Plaintiff failed to appear at work that weekend, the county fired her. Normally, if an employee is forced to work on a Sunday, and cannot work that day because they have to attend church service, the employer is required to accommodate the employee’s request, especially if the employee offers to come to work after the service and arranged for a replacement during the employee’s absence.
However, this case presents an interesting question, as the trial court determined that “being an avid and active member of church does not elevate every activity associated with that church into a legally protectable religious practice.” It then found that Ms. Davis’s “absence from work was due to personal commitment, not religious conviction,” because she described her obligation as a “request” from her Pastor that all members participate in the “community service event.” Since it was not a traditional church service, the trial court determined that the employer was not required to accommodate the plaintiff’s request.
The appellate court, however, reversed the trial court’s decision to side with the employer. The appellate court focused on what it called a historical reluctance of court’s to look too deeply into an individual’s professed religious belief:
This court has cautioned that judicial inquiry into the sincerity of a person’s religious belief must be handled with a light touch, or judicial shyness. Examining religious convictions any more deeply would stray into the realm of religious inquiry, an area into which we are forbidden to tread. Indeed, the sincerity of a plaintiff’s engagement in a particular religious practice is rarely challenged, and claims of sincere religious belief in a particular practice have been accepted on little more than the plaintiff’s credible assertions.
Thus, the appellate court stressed the courts will generally stay out of the discussion as to whether a particular religious belief is sincere. While the case-by-case basis that many religious accommodation issue are judged on remains the standard, the Davis case certainly reinforces the idea that a court will not call into question whether an employee’s religious belief is sincere, and therefore, qualified for a potential religious accommodation.
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 the Spitz 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 the Spitz law firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.