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Do I Have To Prove My Religious Beliefs To My Boss? Lawyer’s Top Reply

| Aug 21, 2015 | Employment Discrimination, Religious Discrimination, Wrongful Termination |

Ohio Religious Discrimination Attorney Best Response: Can my employer require a letter from my minister in order for me to get approval for a religious holiday? I asked my boss for a religious holiday off and he told me I had to prove I was a believer, is that legal? What type of lawyer do I need to sue my employer for wrongful termination?

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Many of us have the expectation of receiving a day off for the Christmas holiday due to the fact that Christianity is a predominant religion in American society. What happens to an employee who practices a religion that isn’t as common as Christianity? Are they entitled to obtain holidays off just like the rest of us?

Under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio’s Ohio Revised Code § 4112.01 , religious discrimination involves treating a person or applicant unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. As our employment discrimination attorneys have blogged about before, the law protects individuals of all religious walks of life- from Christianity to Wiccans. It protects Jewish employees and Muslim workers. The law protects believers from harassment, offensive remarks about a person’s belief and segregation in the workplace based upon religious beliefs (ex. religious garb and grooming practices). (See How Do I Get A Religious Accommodation At Work? Top Attorney Reply!; Can I Sue My Employer For Not Accommodating My Religious Dress? I Need A Lawyer!; and Can My Boss Tell Me Not To Wear Religious Articles Of Clothing At Work? Lawyer Best Update).

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So, our employment discrimination lawyers have talked about what when a religious requirement is implicated, but how does an employee establish that he or she has a religious belief? Can your boss require an employee to bring a note from their religious leader confirming their beliefs?

The answer depends upon the religious belief of the employee. If an employee is Catholic and requests a religious accommodation to obtain ashes during their shift on Ash Wednesday, an employer can reasonably request a letter from their priest since the employee is involved in an organized religious group and could obtain a letter confirmation. However, an employee is not required to provide an employer with a letter from a religious leader to obtain a reasonable accommodation for their religious beliefs, especially if the employee isn’t involved in an organized religious group. A Wiccan who may not have a formal group they practice their religion with certainly would not be able to provide an employer upon request a letter confirming their beliefs, but they are just as protected as the Catholic employee who requests time off for Ash Wednesday. The law doesn’t require an employee to practice his or her religion with a particular church or leader. The employee is only required to express a sincere belief and engage in a discussion with the employer on how reasonable accommodations can be made to allow them to practice their beliefs.

In EEOC v. Union Independiente de la Autoridad, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held on this point:

As noted above, Title VII’s capacious definition of “religion” includes “all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief….” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j); see also 29 C.F.R. § 1605.1 (“[R]eligious practices … include moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.”). Religious beliefs protected by Title VII need not be “acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others….” Thomas v. Review Bd. of Ind. Employment Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 714, 101 S.Ct. 1425, 67 L.Ed.2d 624 (1981). The statute thus leaves little room for a party to challenge the religious nature of an employee’s professed beliefs. Plus, in this case, the religious foundation of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith’s opposition to union membership has long been recognized in the opinions of this court and those of our sister circuits. See Linscott v. Millers Falls Co., 440 F.2d 14, 15-16 (1st Cir.1971); see also McDaniel v. Essex Int’l, Inc., 696 F.2d 34, 37 (6th Cir.1982); Tooley v. Martin-Marietta Corp., 648 F.2d 1239, 1241 (9th Cir.1981); Nottelson v. Smith Steel Workers D.A.L.U. 19806, 643 F.2d 445, 448 (7th Cir.1981). The religious nature of Cruz’s professed belief therefore cannot seriously be disputed, nor has UIA mounted such a challenge.

Likewise, Cloutier v. Costco Wholesale, the United States District Court for the District Massachusetts held:

it is of no consequence whether the employee’s belief is “approved, espoused, prescribed or required by an established church or other religious institution or organization.” There is little room for an employer to challenge the religious basis or mandate of an employee’s belief. Sagar v. Sagar, 57 Mass.App.Ct. 71, 74, 781 N.E.2d 54 (2003) (stating that a court “may not examine the truth behind a person’s religious beliefs”). On the other hand, “[i]nquiry as to whether an employee’s belief is sincere is constitutionally appropriate.” Opinion of the Justices, 423 Mass. at 1246, 673 N.E.2d 36; Sagar, 57 Mass.App.Ct. at 74, 781 N.E.2d 54.

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.