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.
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 actually occurred and has expanded to all religions.
According to the Tannebaum 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 religious discrimination at work
If you are a victim of religious discrimination, you are entitled to a remedy of the situation. As religious discrimination attorneys in Atlanta, Barrett and Farahany 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 on 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.
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.
As an American worker, you have the right to follow your religious beliefs free from the bias of your company or coworkers. If you have been denied accommodations to practice your religion, harassed for your beliefs, or had your job affected by religious discrimination, contact Barrett and Farahany to learn more about your rights and to help make your workplace one that respects the beliefs of all.