• Tom Girardi

Are you a victim of religious discrimination at work?

One of the founding principles of the United States is the freedom of religion. The people who first came to this country did so in order to escape religious persecution and to worship in their own way.

You would expect that, over 200 years later, everyone could worship in their own way without judgment, harassment or discrimination. Sadly, not everyone shows the tolerance the founders of this country expected. Anticipating this eventuality, federal law protects your right to religious freedom, including in the workplace.

What kind of discrimination could you face?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers are prohibited from engaging in the following actions and behaviors because of your religious beliefs and practices:

  • An employer cannot discriminate against you in hiring practices, assignments, pay, benefits, layoffs or firings.

  • Your employer cannot deny you reasonable accommodations for your religious beliefs, such as allowing breaks for prayer times or time off to attend religious events.

  • Your employer cannot segregate you from other employees or customers because of religious grooming or clothing.

  • Your employer cannot deny you the right to wear certain clothing or wear your hair in a certain way as required by your religious beliefs and practices.

In order to receive the reasonable accommodations you need, you must ask for them. Your employer may request that you provide additional supporting information for your request, and that does not violate any laws. If it turns out that providing you with an accommodation would cause undue hardship on the company, your employer may legally deny it.

What happens if your employer discriminates against you?

However, if your employer ignores your request or otherwise fails to provide an accommodation that would not cause undue hardship, you could file a complaint. Actually, if you suffer any form of discrimination, harassment or retaliation due to your religious practices or beliefs, you could file a complaint. Be aware that you may need to follow procedures outlined by your company before you can file a lawsuit. This does not mean, however, that you cannot talk to an attorney before you complain to your boss or HR department.