Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm

Religious Discrimination

Religious Discrimination

Helping Employees Protect Their Beliefs At Work

It is illegal for employers to discriminate based on employees’ religion or religious beliefs. Whether you’re an atheist, Jewish, Mormon, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Protestant, Roman Catholic, or a follower of different religions, you are protected from discrimination based on your religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Ohio Unlawful Discriminatory Practice Statute, R.C. § 4112.02, prohibit religious discrimination in employment. According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”): “Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs.”

Despite the fact that this country was founded by pilgrims escaping religious persecution, discrimination based on religion is still a large problem in the United States and growing. According to EEOC statistics, religious discrimination complaints in workplace settings have more than doubled since 1997. According to the FBI, the overwhelming majority of religiously motivated hate crimes (70.1 percent) are directed against Jews. Our religious employment discrimination attorneys at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, primarily look at the following to determine if you may have a religion based claim:

Discrimination: The federal Title VII and Ohio Revised Code protects employees from being fired, demoted, or denied benefits because of their religious beliefs. There are generally two types of religious discrimination: (1) disparate-treatment discrimination is when religion is a motivating factor in taking adverse employment action against an employee (which would include failure to hire, demotions, pay reductions, and wrongful termination); and (2) disparate-impact discrimination occurs when an employer’s purported neutral policy or practice has a significant negative impact on one religious group. Under either of these circumstances, the aggrieved employee may be entitled to reinstatement, lost wages, as well as compensatory, and/or punitive damages.

Failure to Accommodate: Employees that are followers of a recognized faith also have a right to a reasonable accommodation that allows them to remain in accordance with their religious tenets. Both Ohio and federal law require employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices unless doing so would cause an unreasonable burden on the employer’s business. For example, your boss, manager, or supervisor may have to provide flexible scheduling or shift substitutions to allow an employee to attend religious services or obey the Sabbath. Another example might include requiring an alteration of dress and uniform policies, such as allowing religious head coverings or other dress (Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf); permitting certain hairstyles or facial hair (Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard); or not forcing the employee to wear certain garments consistent with religious prohibition against wearing such garments (such as pants or miniskirts). As always, what is considered a “reasonable” religious accommodation is not always clear and has been a source of much litigation. If you feel that your religious beliefs have been denied a reasonable accommodation by your employer, it is best to discuss it immediately with a religious discrimination attorney.

Imposing Religious Views: The Ohio and federal religious freedom law allows all of us to practice our religion, but we generally do not have the right to force our views upon others. This ban also applies to employers and these same religious protection employment laws prohibit workplace activities that require religious participation. For example, an employer cannot require its employees to take part in mandatory prayer services (even non-denominational) or to attend a particular church. However, private employers are free to express their own religious beliefs or practices in the workplace.

Religious Harassment: Much like other protected classes (race/color, gender/sex, national origin, and age), bosses, managers, and supervisors are not allowed to harass employees based on their religion by calling them religious slurs or making fun of the employee’s religious practices. Likewise, once management observes or otherwise learns of such religious harassment, they must take action to immediately prevent such conduct from continuing.

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Answers For Some Commonly Asked Religious Discrimination Questions

Being discriminated against at work because of your religion can be an isolating and disheartening experience. If you suspect you’ve been targeted at work because of your religious beliefs, here are a few questions you may have:

What Should I Do If I Am Being Discriminated Against Based On My Religion Or Refused A Reasonable Accommodation For My Religious Practices? How Should I Document Religious Discrimination On My Job?

Religious Discrimination Attorney: As employment discrimination attorneys, we always have our eye on evidence. To that end, we always recommend making complaints of religious discrimination or requests for religious accommodations in writing. The writing can be on paper, by email, through fax, or even by text message. The writing should expressly state the specific reason or reasons for the religious accommodation sought and describe the accommodation you want. If you are facing religious discrimination, the writing should describe as many instances as you can and those that are involved. If there are more instances of religious discrimination than you described in the writing, make sure that the writing says something to the effect of, “these are only some of the problems that I am having,” or “I could go on, but you get the point.” It is also critical that you keep copies of every writing that you give to your boss, manager, HR, etc., as well as everything that is given to you by your employer. If you are having trouble reporting the discrimination on your own, call us for a free initial consultation and we will help you.

Can My Employer Refuse To Accommodate My Religious Practices Because My Boss Says It Would Cause An Undue Burden? What Is “Undue Hardship” Or “Undue Burden”?

Religious Discrimination Attorney: A religious accommodation causes an undue hardship or burden if it causes more than de minimis cost to the company that you work for. De minimis means too trivial or minor to merit consideration. When a court decides whether the proposed religious accommodation causes an undue hardship or burden, it considers many factors, including, but not limited to the type of workplace, the employee’s duties, any direct costs involved in allowing the accommodation, the size and overall operating expenses of the company, and the number of employees who would need an accommodation. In looking at costs, the evaluation goes beyond simply the direct expense of providing the religious accommodation but also considers the burden on the operation of the employer’s business. Undue burdens and hardships have been found based on the creation of safety hazards, reduction in the efficiency of the business operations, infringement on coworkers’ rights or benefits, and others. But, your boss cannot refuse a religious accommodation by arguing that there may be a potential or hypothetical undue hardship or burden. Similarly, your manager or supervisor cannot simply assume that there will likely be a great number more workers who will seek accommodation as a basis of proving undue hardship. And, if your manager or boss is arguing an undue hardship or burden, then he or she must also show that the company engaged in an interactive process to see if a less burdensome alternative accommodation could be found.

How Do I Get Religious Dress Accommodations At Work? Can My Job Make Me Wear Certain Clothes That Violate My Religious Beliefs?

Religious Discrimination Attorney: First off, if you walk into your job wearing a yarmulke, turban, hijab, or another article of clothing worn based on your religious beliefs, you should not need to ask or otherwise request an accommodation. At that point, your job is legally required to give you an accommodation to wear your religious garb so long as it does not create an undue burden or hardship. In this regard, the undue burden or hardship standard can be met in some cases by your boss or manager pointing to health and safety concerns. For example, a manufacturing company may be allowed to require pants, as opposed to a long skirt, to prevent loose clothing from getting caught in machinery; and may be able to fire a female employee even though her religious beliefs prevent her from wearing pants. However, our religious discrimination lawyers have argued that termination would still be inappropriate if there is a different position available that would allow her to wear a religious-based skirt. Likewise, although a company may claim that the requirements of working in a sterile environment prevent it from hiring an applicant wearing a turban or headscarf, the fact that other employees are allowed to change into sterile clothing should allow the applicant the same opportunity to change into a sterile turban or headscarf.

Can My Boss Deny A Religious Dress Accommodation Based On Customer Preferences Or Concerns? Can A Company Refuse To Hire Me Because It Thinks Its Customers Won’t Relate To Me Because Of My Headscarf?

Religious Discrimination Attorney: Real, fake, or even perceived customer preferences or fears is never a lawful justification for your job to create a discriminatory practice. Your company cannot refuse to hire, fire or demote you based on the irrational fears or concerns that customers or co-workers may have with your religion or religious beliefs. Lately, many employers will not hire Islamic employees because of concerns over customer reactions. This is illegal employment discrimination.

How Do I Get Time Off For The Sabbath, Religious Holidays, Or Time To Pray During The Work Day? What Type Of Religious Accommodations Can I Get At Work For Time Off?

Religious Discrimination Attorney: Your boss, manager or supervisor may be able to reasonably accommodate you by giving you floating or optional holidays, flexible work breaks or trading early arrival or lunchtime in exchange for leaving early. However, only allowing an employee to substitute a lunch break for leaving a half hour early is not a sufficient accommodation if the employee needs to leave an hour early to get home before sundown or for a religious holiday. Although allowing the swapping of shifts with a coworker appears reasonable on its face, there may be some issues that your job could raise. First, your company is not required to allow a shift swap if it would create greater than de minimis cost to the company. For example, a swap may become overly burdensome if it results in one of the employees getting more than nominal or infrequent overtime wages. Second, involuntarily requiring employees to swap shifts may also create an undue burden or hardship. But, if you are swapping with a coworker that is on salary or swapping an equal amount of hours during the same pay period, your manager will have a difficult time arguing undue hardship or burden. Moreover, your supervisor or boss is not permitted to actively discourage your fellow coworkers from swapping or trading shifts to in order to accommodate your religious conflict.

What Can I Do If I Need Space To Pray At Work During A Break? Does My Job Have To Provide Me A Room To Pray At Work?

Religious Discrimination Attorney: Some religions require prayer time at various points during the day, which results in employees seeking a room or quiet area during a break or lunch period as an accommodation. Again, the only real question for this religious accommodation is whether it would cause an undue burden or expense to the employer. If the company or boss provides such accommodations for non-religious reasons, it becomes clear that such accommodations are not unduly costly or burdensome.

Can My Job Retaliate Against Me For Asking For A Religious Accommodation Or Reporting Religion Based Discrimination In The Workplace? What Should I Do If I Was Fired Today For Requesting An Accommodation For My Religion?

Religious Discrimination Attorney: No. Both Ohio and Federal law prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who engaged in protected activity, including opposing a practice the employee reasonably believes is made unlawful by one of the employment discrimination statutes or of filing a charge, testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the statute. Thus, an employer cannot fire, demote, discipline or take other adverse actions against any employee from complaining about the infringement of their or any other employees’ rights to be free from religious discrimination.

Can I Sue A Religious Organization For Religious Discrimination? Can I Sue The Church That I Work At For Religious Discrimination?

Religious Discrimination Attorney: After reading all of these requirements, you might be wondering how religious organizations can possibly operate without violating at least some of these laws? Well, they do not have to. The law excludes any organization in which a person’s religious views are a “bona fide occupational qualification.” This definition encompasses all religious non-profit organizations and many of their ancillary services. Nonetheless, most of us do not work for a church, temple, mosque or the like, and as such we are entitled to all of the legal rights discussed above.

I Was Fired Because Of My Religion; Can I Sue? Do I Have A Claim For Religious Discrimination Or Wrongful Termination?

Religious Discrimination Attorney: Our employment attorneys have provided as much information as we possibly can on this website, but your particular chances to prevail on a claim for religious discrimination and wrongful termination cannot be properly evaluated without a discussion regarding the facts relating to your termination and employment situation. Whether you are Islamic, Jewish, Protestant, Buddhist, Mormon, Christian, Hindu, Roman Catholic or another religion, meet with our top employment lawyers to discuss the facts surrounding your wrongful termination or the discrimination at your job. Because our employment law attorneys fight for employees’ rights every day, we offer a free initial consultation for Ohio claims. It is not worth guessing about your possible rights and claims when a call can get you a free answer.

Defend Your Beliefs and Call The Right Attorney™

Because religious discrimination and religion-based harassment can occur in many different ways, it is always best to consult a qualified employment law attorney regarding the specifics of your case. If you find yourself considering action, our frequently asked questions around religious discrimination could be of use to you. However, you should definitely call if you find yourself saying or searching for:

  • My boss told me that he hates Jews and fired me today.
  • My company is forcing me to work on the Sabbath and other religious holidays.
  • The company I work for has a dress code that is against my religion.
  • I was turned down for a job because my headscarf didn’t fit the company’s look policy.
  • My supervisor called me a kike.
  • My manager put a swastika on my locker.
  • My job has a mandatory prayer time.
  • A partner told me that as a Jew, I killed his savior.
  • I was fired when my boss found out I am a practicing Islamic.
  • My manager keeps telling me to go to his church even though I am Mormon.
  • I was demoted after I reported religious discrimination to HR.
  • My supervisor said everyone has to believe in God and fired me because I’m an atheist.
  • At an interview, I was told that I would not get the job unless I agreed to work on the Sabbath.
  • My co-workers that go to the same temple as my boss get paid higher.
  • I was fired when I reported to HR that my supervisor is anti-Semitic.
  • Is it best to have an attorney help me with my Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim?

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 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.

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Because we know that many clients are not able to afford the costs of litigation up front, we take on more cases on a contingency fee basis than most firms. Contingency fee agreements mean that the client need not pay any fee for legal services unless and until our employment attorneys recover money and/or results on your race discrimination claim.