Religious Discrimination

Protecting the Fundamental Right of Freedom of Religion

One of the founding principles behind the U.S. Constitution is the freedom to worship in any way we choose. Our religion – or lack thereof – is protected by law but, in the workplace, many companies disregard this freedom and instead base one's employment status on their own religious prejudices. At Miller Wilmers APC, our Southern California religious discrimination attorneys are prepared to stand with you to defend your rights.

Religion in the Workplace

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against individuals because of their religion in regards to hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment, such as promotions and raises. While one might believe religious discrimination is on the decline as the workplace has become more diverse, the opposite has occurred and has expanded to all religions.

According to the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, one in three American workers have experienced or witnessed religious bias at work, and more than half agree there is discrimination against Muslims in the workplace. In addition, 60 percent of Protestants believe discrimination against Christians has become more prevalent, and 60 percent of atheists believe their employers look down on their beliefs.

Issues of Discrimination at the Workplace

If you are a victim of religious discrimination, you are entitled to a remedy of the situation. Our team at Miller Wilmers APC can help you determine if you have been discriminated against and identify the steps needed to seek compensation due to injustice.

Cases of religious discrimination may include:

  • Refusing to hire an employee because of his or her religious beliefs
  • Requiring an employee to follow a certain religion as a condition of employment or promotion
  • Transferring an employee to a different position due to his or her religion
  • Firing an employee because he or she prays over lunch
  • Harassing a worker because of religious clothing or doctrine

In addition, under Title VII, a company must reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee unless it would be an undue hardship for the employer. Practices requiring accommodations vary by religion but some examples include an Orthodox Jew who observes the Sabbath on Saturday or a Muslim who needs time to pray toward Mecca throughout the day. Accommodations can include flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and lateral transfers.

Exceptions to Title VII

While Title VII covers employers, governments, and educational institutions with more than 15 employees, under certain circumstances some religious institutions are exempt from the law. These organizations are allowed to hire only individuals of a particular religion to “perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.” For instance, a Catholic school can require that its teachers practice Catholicism.

Under both federal and California law it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or applicants based on their religion. These religious discrimination laws protect against treating a worker or an applicant differently because of their religious beliefs. The laws are broad enough to cover both traditional and organized religions (such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism) as well as others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.  The laws also cover discrimination against a person because he or she is married to or associated with someone who belongs to a particular religion.

If you feel that your employer is discriminating against you based on your religion, you may wish to consult with an employment attorney regarding your rights.

California Religious Discrimination Laws

Under religious discrimination law in California, it is unlawful for an employer to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their religion. It is also unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of any potential conflict between a person's religious beliefs and any employment requirement.

Additionally, employers must provide reasonable accommodation for an individual's religious beliefs. This includes any observance of religious holy day (or Sabbath) and necessary time to travel both to and from a religious observance.

The California Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 (also known as WRFA) expanded the protections of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) with respect to religion.

The WRFA specifies that the accommodation aspects of the religious discrimination laws extend to religious grooming and dressing practices. This includes facial hair, jewelry, and certain attire.

The WRFA provides that a “reasonable accommodation” requires that an employee be segregated from other workers or customers and general public is not sufficient.

The WRFA clarifies that the “undue hardship” defense for religious and disability accommodations requires a more stringent showing on the part of the employer than the federal standard.

Religious Discrimination Lawyer in California

If you have a question about religious discrimination in the workplace, contact us for a FREE consultation. Our experienced team of employment law attorneys at Miller Wilmers APC may be able to assist you with your situation.

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