Religious freedom is incredibly important to the people of this country. For many, this includes being able to practice their religious beliefs safely and uninterrupted in the workplace. However, there are limits to practicing one’s religious beliefs in public, especially in the workplace. So it begs the question, when is an employer’s refusal to accommodate religious discrimination? Also, when is it within an employer’s right to restrict certain religious acts in the workplace?
If you’re unsure of what kinds of religious expressions are or are not allowed in the workplace, talk to our religious discrimination attorneys. If you have experienced religious discrimination in the workplace, you may be able to file for compensation.
Protections Against Religious Discrimination?
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the primary federal agency responsible for enforcing laws that protect workers against discrimination in the workplace. This includes religious discrimination, among other types of prejudice.
The EEOC was made to specifically enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals based on their religion or religious beliefs. This includes discrimination in:
- Job assignments
Title VII also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s sincerely-held religious beliefs and practices. But not all requested accommodations are reasonable. There is a point at which prohibiting some religious beliefs or practices in the workplace is legal.
What Religious Acts Are Protected in the Workplace?
Religious acts that are protected in the workplace do not directly and significantly affect the business’s success. These include:
- Wearing religious symbols or clothing that follow work safety protocol.
- Displaying religious objects on one’s person or in their workplace (i.e. personal desk) without posting a work hazard.
- Following dietary restrictions such as a religiously prompted fast.
- Requesting time off or modified work hours to observe a holiday.
- Opting out of activities that go against or might conflict with one’s religious beliefs.
If a customer, business partner, or fellow employee refuses to make a purchase, do business, or work because an employee is performing any of the stated religious acts without violating that person’s safety, this is not grounds for termination. Firing someone to appease the personal prejudice of others is workplace discrimination. It is not an unreasonable accommodation to retain an employee who is the victim of discrimination, nor to protect them. It is the employer’s responsibility to protect them in most instances.
What Religious Acts Are Not Protected in the Workplace?
The law does not protect all religious acts in the workplace. Some that are not protected include:
- Proselytizing, or attempting to convert someone to their religion.
- Displaying certain symbols that are a hateful symbol in other cultures. For example, swastikas have become a symbol of hate because of the leading political party of Germany during WWII. Employers are allowed to ban them from public places even if they are not paired with the colors used in Germany decades ago. Originally, this symbol was and still is used in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism as a symbol of the sun, infinity, and continuing creation.
- Granting time off for religious holidays when:
- The employee did not give their employer ample notice as per their employment contract.
- Other employees also requested off as well so there are not enough people to work.
It is not considered a reasonable accommodation when a religious practice interferes with the business’s smooth running. This can include cases where providing an accommodation would disrupt an essential part of business operations or fundamentally alter its services or products.
Contact Barrett & Farahany for Help Against Religious Discrimination
There are going to be instances where denying an employee one accommodation but allowing another in a similar circumstance may appear like religious discrimination, but is not. This makes it important to discuss your situation with an attorney as soon as possible.
Religious discrimination is not always as simple as something like hate speech in the workplace, but subtle grievances that are done to inconvenience and treat you differently from other employees.
Talk to the religious discrimination attorneys at Barrett & Farahany. We can discuss what religious acts you can legally perform in the workplace and whether or not the actions of your employer were religious discrimination. Contact us today.