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Religious Freedom Restoration Act creates conflict for employers

Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects employees from discrimination in the workplace from discrimination based on religious beliefs, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act bills that have surfaced in some states have some employers unsure of where the lines of discrimination and freedom of religion meet. In fact, Human Resource Executive Online states that religious conflict is the fastest growing area of discrimination in the American workplace.

While the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not actually a new concept and was originally signed into law by President Bill Clinton back in 1993 (before it was ruled unconstitutional in 1997), the newer versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, such as those signed into law by Indiana, have opened a Pandora’s box as to not only whether businesses have a right to refuse service to individuals who have opposing religious beliefs, but also as a way for some employers to decide whom they will and will not hire.

As an example, the Supreme Court is currently considering whether Abercrombie & Fitch had the right to refuse to employ a female job applicant who wore a hijab based on its practice of only hiring employees who meet their image-conscious practices. The clothing retailer maintained that it didn’t know that the head covering worn by the applicant was a religious item.

A ruling that could place the burden of knowing whether a job applicant is in need of religious accommodations on the employer could potentially cause employers to ask job applicants questions about their religious affiliations. This could open employers to even more potential discrimination claims.

Individuals who believe that they have been the victims of religious discrimination may find it beneficial to speak with an experienced Michigan employment law attorney.

Source: Human Resource Executive Online, “Religion in the Workplace,” May. 12, 2015