A lot of employees center their lives on their faith. Indeed, carrying out religious beliefs, which include adhering to religious observances, grooming, dressing and eating practices, is an employee right that every employer must always consider. Under anti-discrimination laws, subjecting employees to any form of discrimination or harassment on the basis of their religion is prohibited.
Unfortunately, instances of such still occur. In fact, according to the Charge Statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), of the 93,727 total charges filed with the agency during the fiscal year 2013, about 4 percent of them were religious discrimination claims. Although they only account for a small percentage, they are nonetheless significant.
Prohibited Under Title VII
One of the federal laws that the EEOC enforces is the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provides that employers with 15 or more employees are not allowed to discriminate against or harass employees on the basis of their religious beliefs or their non-association to any religious belief. This covers every aspect of employment, from recruitment and hiring to termination.
For instance, it is not allowed for an employer to not refuse a qualified applicant of a certain religion. In the same vein, an employer cannot refuse to hire the same because the latter does not share the same religious views with the employer. It is also not allowed for an employer to enforce promotion requirements for qualified workers who practice a certain religion. Likewise, termination on the basis of one’s conversion to another faith is prohibited.
The said Act also does not allow covered employers to deny employees’ requests for reasonable accommodations with respect to their religious beliefs or their non-association to any religious belief. An example of an accommodation includes a request to be exempted from the company’s policies so that an employee could wear any clothing or groom oneself in accordance with his or her religious beliefs. Another is a request for non-work on a certain day of a workweek in order to strictly adhere with his or her religious belief (e.g. requesting to skip work to attend a church service, not working on the Sabbath day).
Moreover, retaliation is also not allowed under Title VII. Here, employers cannot subject an employee who exercises a protected activity—filing a complaint of alleged religious discrimination with the company HR or a charge with the EEOC—to adverse employment actions such as demotion, salary deductions, or termination.
Asserting employee rights against this form of discrimination
Employees or job applicants who have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation on the basis of their religious beliefs must be able to assert their rights. It is imperative to first report any discriminatory, harassing, or retaliatory treatment to the employer, particularly the company HR. If the concerns were not addressed, it would be best to proceed filing a charge with the EEOC or any other appropriate agency. Alternately, seeking the legal expertise of a reputable Los Angeles employment discrimination lawyer would also do.