Religious Discrimination

Religious belief is an important part of many people’s lives. Federal, state, and local laws aim to protect workers against discrimination based on religious beliefs in the workplace.

Pospis Law vigorously represents employees who have been treated unfairly because of their religious beliefs or the religious beliefs of someone with whom they have a known association, or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group.

Religious Discrimination and Harassment

Religious discrimination and harassment are prohibited by federal, state, and local law.

As with other forms of discrimination, religious discrimination is prohibited with respect to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

It is also unlawful to harass a person because of his or her religion, such as by making offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or practices. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

It is also unlawful for an employer to force an employee to participate (or not participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment.

Reasonable Accommodation for Religious Beliefs and Practices

The law requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer’s business.

This basically means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion. Examples of some common religious accommodations include

  • flexible scheduling,
  • voluntary shift substitutions or swaps,
  • job reassignments,
  • modifications to workplace policies or practices,
  • leave for religious observances, and
  • accommodating dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons, such as wearing particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf) or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard).

An employer may argue that they are not required to provide a particular accommodation because it would cause them “undue hardship”.

A 2011 amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law, entitled the “Workplace Religious Freedom Act“, makes it more difficult for employers to claim that a proposed accommodation for an employee’s religious practices constitutes an “undue hardship”.

We Can Help

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you believe you have been subjected to discrimination because of your religious beliefs.

Religious Discrimination Resources


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