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What You Need to Know About the Laws that Prohibit Religious Discrimination in the California Workplace

What You Need to Know About the Laws that Prohibit Religious Discrimination in the California Workplace

Living a life that is centered on your religious beliefs is a right that should not be taken away from you. If you are a California worker, you must be aware of the fact that discrimination or harassment on account of your religion is basically prohibited. Indeed, there are two pertinent laws that make it illegal for employers to commit certain discriminatory or harassing actions against employees and applicants on any aspect of employment.

On one hand, there is the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Not only does it protects individuals from discrimination and harassment on account of their religion, but also protects those of a certain race, color, national origin, and sex. Retaliation, or carrying out an adverse employment decision in response to one’s exercise of a protected right such as filing a religious discrimination complaint, is also not allowed under the federal law.

Basically, employers with 15 or more employees are subject to Title VII. Indeed, they cannot treat applicants or employees differently due to their practice of their religious beliefs. Likewise, harassing them verbally through generalizations of typical stereotypes is prohibited. The same prohibitions stipulated under Title VII also apply to individuals who associate with people who practice religious beliefs.

Also, under the federal law, reasonable accommodations must be provided. Generally, these are adjustments that employers may make in order for their employees to perform their jobs well. In the case of religious beliefs, modifications are allowed so that they can do their duties and responsibilities while still adhering to their religion. For instance, a worker may request to have his or her schedule changed in order to observe the Sabbath day. Employers, however, may not need to provide accommodations if it would pose undue hardship for their businesses.

Meanwhile, on the other hand, there is the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which is a state statute that likewise prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace on account of one’s religion. While Title VII covers 15 or more employees, the FEHA covers 5 or more employees. Like Title VII, the state statute cannot subject employees or applicants to any adverse employment decisions or treat them differently just because they practice or believe in their religion.

Until recently, however, the FEHA’s definition of “religious creed” expanded further to include “religious dress and grooming practices.” Here, it became even clearer that discriminating and harassing an individual just because he or she dresses or grooms in accordance to their religious beliefs or practices are prohibited. Thus, it is important for employers covered under the FEHA to accommodate workers by having them dress or groom themselves consistent to their religious beliefs. Again, employers may not provide such accommodations if it would cause undue hardship for their businesses.

For example, wearing hijabs for women of Islamic faith and wearing turbans for men of the Sikh faith must be allowed. Jewelry, artifacts, and other article of clothing of religious importance must likewise be allowed. Wearing a beard, shaving the head or sporting a long hair must be allowed, especially if it’s a customary grooming practice for their respective religion.

If you are a victim of religious discrimination in the California workplace, it is important that you are aware of your rights. Taking note of these laws would be advantageous for you, especially if you want to pursue legal action against your employer. Consulting a Los Angeles employment attorney is one of the best things you can do to establish a claim for discrimination on account of your religious beliefs.

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