One of the basic rights afforded to Americans by the First Amendment is the right to practice any religion. There are both state and federal laws in place that ban religious discrimination, including in the workplace.
Religion is much more than just beliefs. For many, their religion dictates how they dress or wear their hair, what they eat, when they pray and much more. Because of this, there are many areas where employers and employees can run afoul of each other because of religion.
There are many forms of religious discrimination that the courts have recognized. These include a hostile environment, disparate impact and disparate treatment.
Disparate treatment discrimination occurs when an employee is not treated equally because of his or her religion. An example would be an employer who doesn’t hire or promote those who practice a certain religion. There are exceptions, however, such as a religious business that requires its employees to practice a certain religion.
Disparate impact involves actions of an employer that are more subtle. For example, a policy that prohibits men from wearing a hat or other type of clothing on their heads could conflict with a certain religion that requires specific headwear that must be worn in public.
A hostile work environment occurs when an employer allows the harassment of an employee by others because of his or her religion. The harassment must be serious, such as severe insults or even threats toward the employee. If the employer knows of the harassment or should have known, then he or she can be held culpable.
Religious discrimination occurs more often than you might think in the workplace. When it does occur, there are a few ways that the employee may handle the situation. He or she can make a complaint to his or her supervisor or to human resources personnel. If that does not put an end to it, the person has a right to speak with an employment law attorney and ensure his or her legal rights are protected.
Source: FindLaw, “Religion in the Workplace,” accessed Jan. 01, 2016