Facts About Religious Discrimination and Harassment
In America, everyone has the right to worship freely according to his or her beliefs. Religious freedom is a constitutional right, and employers and coworkers are legally forbidden from discriminating against or harassing employees because of their religion.
Additionally, employers should try to accommodate special circumstances around the practice of religion, unless doing so will be a hardship on the business. The laws against religious discrimination apply to all government employees and any private employers with fifteen or more employees.
While light teasing, occasional remarks, or isolated incidents are generally not considered to be illegal, harassment that occurs frequently or is ongoing may contribute to a hostile work environment that could be illegal. Hopefully, employers or supervisors who have been made aware of a potential religious harassment issue will make the right decision to correct the situation before it rises to the level of being illegal. Occasionally, however, the employee who is being harassed may be targeted as the problem and may be demoted, transferred, or even fired. Fortunately, retaliation for a complaint about illegal harassment is also illegal.
Religious discrimination can take place at any time: during hiring, during active employment, or at termination. Religious discrimination can be the underlying reason for undesirable job assignments, decreases in pay, failure to promote, layoffs, and unequal training opportunities. Religious discrimination should be suspected if it appears that an employer gives different opportunities to employees based on religion rather than on potential or performance.
Religious discrimination may be directly toward the employee or may be the result of the employee’s relationship with a friend or family member of a particular religion. For example, if an employer learns that an employee’s spouse subscribes to a particular religion and the employee’s status in the company changes dramatically as a result, the employee’s treatment may be religious discrimination by association.
Segregation is another form of discrimination that is illegal. Some employers may assign employees who practice particular religious beliefs to “back room” positions where they do not come into contact with clients or customers.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
This legislature defines religion as a belief or something that is observed and practiced. It is unlawful to discriminate based on religion, just as it is unlawful to discriminate based on race, sex, national origin, age, disability, or pregnancy. Title VII is a federal law that makes religious discrimination illegal, but state laws may also protect employees from religious discrimination.
In Georgia, state law prohibits discrimination based on:
- Equal Pay for Both Sexes
Domestic and agricultural employees are not protected against discrimination in Georgia, but state employees may have additional protections under Georgia law.
Understanding federal and state employment laws can be difficult. If you feel you have been the target of religious discrimination or harassment, you should discuss your concerns with an experienced employment lawyer in Atlanta who understands the law and can help determine the answers you need to be able to move forward.