Religious discrimination is one of the least understandable aspects of workplace discrimination law. It is covered by federal statutes and it is against the law. However, what constitutes discrimination and what an employer must allow to respect an employee's religious beliefs is extremely complicated.
Federal Law Prohibits Some Actions
Federal law usually disallows hiring and firing employees based on their religion. A business owner cannot turn away or terminate an employee because the employee is Muslim or, for that matter, born-again Christian. In addition, employers must make sure that their other employees do not ridicule or abuse an employee because they don't agree with that person's religious faith or practices.
Employees Have Rights
Under federal law, employers must allow employees certain privileges based on their religions. If an employee wants to pray at work during breaks, his employer is obligated to allow it in a quiet area removed from regular business activity.
If an employee's religion requires certain clothing, an employer can't forbid the employee from wearing it - unless doing so poses a proven safety hazard.If an employee requests time off for a religious occasion, an employer must grant the time off without punishment. The employee does not have to receive pay for the time off.
Employers Must Determine Sincerity
An insincere request for religious accommodations is not against the law. If a devout Muslim requests a Christian holiday off, such as Good Friday, an employer can deny the request based on the fact that Muslims don't recognize Good Friday.
If an employer thinks a request is based on a personal preference rather than religion, the company can also deny it.For instance, an employee might state that religious restrictions prevent him from wearing a tie or suit to work. If this doesn't agree with the doctrine of any established religion, the employer does not have to agree to it.
Discrimination Laws Don't Apply to All Businesses
Not all businesses are subject to religious discrimination laws. Companies with fewer than 15 employees do not have to honor these rules. Religious institutions can hire or fire anyone they like, even if the choice is based on religious preference.
For example, a synagogue or a mosque cannot be forced to hire a Christian worker.Religious institutions are also exempt from other discrimination laws if those laws conflict with their beliefs. For example, if a certain religion refuses to hire female ministers, that decision is not subject to gender discrimination laws.
An Employment Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding workplace discrimination based on religious belief is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an employment lawyer.