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Can My Boss Penalize Me For Praying At Work? Top Religious Discrimination Lawyer Reply

| Oct 7, 2014 | Employment Discrimination, Religious Discrimination, Wrongful Termination |

Best Ohio Religious Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can my boss stop me from praying while I’m on the job?  Can I be fired or disciplined because I’m too religious?  If I quit because my manager is preventing me from fulfilling my religious duties, can I sue for wrongful termination?

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Recently our employment and religious discrimination lawyers tackled the question, can my job force me to pray? The National Football League recently found itself tackling the exact opposition issue.

Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah – a devout Muslim – dropped to his knees in prayer after intercepting a Tom Brady pass to score a touchdown.  (Watch the play and get the details as reported by Deadspin here.) Out came the yellow flag and he was penalized 15 yards for doing so.  The NFL got it wrong (again).

Abdullah actually sat out the 2012 NFL season so that he could make a religious  pilgrimage across the United States speaking at mosques and then travelled to Mecca. Additionally, Abdullah has always honored Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and prayer, including each year that he has played in the NFL during training camp.  This required Abdullah to go through the rigors of a physically demanding training camp while not eating or drinking during daylight hours.  So clearly, dropping in prayer was based on a sincerely held religious belief.

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Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964  and Ohio R.C. § 4112.02 prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on their religion.  That includes not retaliating against employees for their religious observances.  Instead, employers must “reasonably accommodate” religious observances unless doing so would create an “undue hardship” for the employer. Clearly, it does not create an undue hardship to the NFL to allow Abdullah to drop to ground and pray for a few seconds in the end zone.

So what does this mean for you?

  1. Your boss must treat all religions equally.  Remember Husain Abdullah’s end zone prayer?  Brandon Marshall, a receiver for the Chicago Bears, went down on one knee in prayer after scoring touchdowns in two different games and was not penalized either time.  Heck, Tim Tebow regularly (for as long as he was in the NFL) knelt and prayed in the end zone, which lead to him trade marking the term “Tebowing” for that action. What’s the difference?  Marshall and Tebow are Christians, and Abdullah is a Muslim.  Employers are prohibited from discriminating against one particular religion in that way.  If Marshall gets to pray and Tim gets to do his Tebowing, than so should Abdullah.
  2. So can your boss decide to ban every kind of prayer?  No. If your religion requires you to pray at set times during the day, like Islam does, then your boss must grant you time to pray unless his granting you those 15 minutes will create a noticeable cost to his bottom line.
  3. Your boss also must allow you to dress the way your religion requires you to dress.  This means if you are an observant Catholic, your boss can’t force you to wash the ashes off of your forehead on Ash Wednesday.  Observant Jewish males must be allowed to wear their skull caps; Hindus must be allowed to wear a bindi; Muslim and Sikh males must be allowed to wear beards.  This is true even if your boss gets complaints from customers regarding your religious dress.
  4. If you quit because you believe your boss is making it impossible for you to fulfill your religious duties, you can sue him.  You should not have to choose between remaining employed and remaining an observant believer and the law protects you from having to do so.  Forcing you to chose between your religion and your job is tantamount to a constructive discharge and wrongful termination.

The NFL eventually got it right.  It released a statement saying that Abdullah should not have been penalized for his religious prayer and that officials are not allowed to flag a player that is kneeling for religious reasons.  You can’t count on your employer to do the same.

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.

Disclaimer:

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.