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What You Need To Know About Workplace Religious Discrimination

by | May 9, 2024 | Employment Discrimination, Employment Law, Federal Law Update, Religious Discrimination, Retaliation, Wrongful Termination |

How does Title VII protect employee’s religious rights?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law in the United States that prohibits employment discrimination based on several protected characteristic, including religion. The section of Title VII related to religious discrimination is particularly aimed at protecting employees from unfair treatment based on their religious beliefs and practices. Here’s an explanation of how Title VII protects employees from religious discrimination.

How does Title VII define religion?

Title VII defines religion broadly to include not only traditional, organized religions (such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, or Judaism) but also, sincerely held beliefs, practices, and observances. Sincerely held beliefs are convictions or principles that a person genuinely adheres to and considers a fundamental aspect of their identity. The sincerity of these beliefs is essential, meaning they are not adopted for strategic or fraudulent reasons. This ensures that a wide range of religious beliefs and practices are protected, even if they are not part of a mainstream or well-established faith.

What does Title VII specifically prohibit regarding religious discrimination in the workplace?

Title VII makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or applicants on the basis of religion. This prohibition applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, job assignments, and compensation. Firing an employee because of that employee’s religion or religious belief is wrongful termination.

Title VII also prohibits harassment based on religion. This includes unwelcome and offensive remarks or conduct related to an individual’s religious beliefs or practices. Employers are responsible for preventing and addressing religious harassment in the workplace.

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Does my job have to accommodate my religious beliefs?

Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to the religious practices of employees, unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer. A reasonable accommodation might include allowing time off for religious observances, modifying work schedules, or adjusting dress code policies to accommodate religious attire.

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How do you prove a failure to make a religious accommodation under Title VII?

If an employee believes their employer has failed to accommodate a religious requirement, the employee will first need to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. In a Title VII case related to religious discrimination, this involves proving three things:

  1. The employee has a genuine religious belief that clashes with a job requirement.
  2. The employee informed the employer about this belief.
  3. The employee faced disciplinary action for not complying with the conflicting job requirement.

Once these elements are proven, the employer can avoid liability by demonstrating that accommodating the employee’s religious needs would cause undue hardship on the company’s operations.

For example, in the recent case, Giurca v. Bon Secours Charity Health Sys., No. 23-200, 2024 WL 302384 (2d Cir. Jan. 26, 2024), Dr. Dan Giurca claimed religious discrimination and failure to accommodate because the contract he was presented with provided that his employment would be “subject to” as well as services to be “provided in accordance with” the “Ethical and Religious Directives of the Roman Catholic Church.” Dr. Giurca is Orthodox Christian.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that even accepting the first and second elements, Dr. Giurca never explained how any of his religious belief would be infringed by providing care under this standard. More simply stated, the employer did not ask Dr. Giurca to engage in any activity or perform any task that was contrary to his Orthodox Christian religious beliefs. And certainly, Dr. Giurca failed to assert how simply signing the contract would violate his religious tenets.

As such, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of Dr. Giurca’s religious discrimination claim.

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Can my employer retaliate against me for asking for a religious accommodation?

No, Title VII protects employees from retaliation for asserting their rights under the law. If an employee complains about religious discrimination, requests a religious accommodation, or participates in an investigation related to a complaint of religious discrimination, the law prohibits the employer from retaliating against them. Firing an employee for engaging in such protected activity would be a wrong termination.

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How do you prove religious retaliation under Title VII?

To prove religious retaliation under Title VII, an employee must show engagement in a protected activity, such as opposing discrimination or seeking a religious accommodation, followed by an adverse employment action. An adverse employment occurs when the employer takes any action against the employee that would dissuade the employee or any other reasonable employee from making a request for a religious accommodation or complaining about religious discrimination. At that point, the employer must state a legitimate basis for its employment action against the employee. If the employer provides a reason for the adverse action, the employee must prove that this reason is a pretext for retaliation. This could involve demonstrating inconsistencies or showing that the stated reason is not supported by the evidence.

In Giurca, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held:

The Hospital Defendants clearly identified “legitimate, non-retaliatory reason[s]” for declining to hire Giurca. Zann Kwan, 737 F.3d at 845. When Giurca inquired about employment with Good Samaritan in March 2019, the hospital was not considering applications for the consultant liaison position in which he expressed an interest. Colavito—the recruiter with whom Giurca had been communicating—then learned that Giurca had lied during his interview about being presently employed at another hospital, despite having been terminated “due to bizarre behavior.” Joint App’x at 1218. Due to his lack of candor, Colavito chose not to consider Giurca for subsequent job openings. In July 2019, after Giurca interviewed for a consultant liaison position, the only position he expressed an interest in, at WMCHealth, Bartell and Ferrando—the decisionmakers—recommended against hiring Giurca because he did not have the necessary experience or certifications.

Because proof of lying to a potential employer and not having the necessary certifications and qualifications are legitimate business reasons not to hire a candidate, the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Dr. Giurca’s retaliation claims.

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What should I do if my employer is discriminating against me because I am Jewish?

If you’re facing discrimination at work due to your Jewish background or any other religion, it’s crucial to seek legal assistance. Contacting Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, is a wise step as they exclusively focus on employment law and offer a no-fee guarantee. This means that you can consult with experienced attorneys at no cost, ensuring that you understand your rights and potential legal recourse. Spitz’s expertise in handling discrimination cases, including those based on religious grounds, can empower you to address the situation effectively and take necessary actions to protect your rights in the workplace without worrying about upfront legal fees.


The religious discrimination, failure to accommodate, and wrongful termination information provided on this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The employment discrimination content on this blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. While we strive to keep the information on the blog accurate and up-to-date, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the blog or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the blog for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk.

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