Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits religious discrimination. Religious discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The term “religion” includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.
Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group.
The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. Further, it is illegal to harass a person because of his or her religion. Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or practices. The law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, rather harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision such as the victim being fired or demoted.
The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer’s business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion.
Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices. Employers must make such reasonable accommodations unless the accommodation would be an undue hardship on the employer’s operation of its business. This applies to not only schedule changes or leave for religious observances, but also to such things as dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons.
An employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.
An employee cannot be forced to participate (or not participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment.
Title VII also prohibits retaliation if an employee complains about religious discrimination. Specifically the law says, “[i]t shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees . . . because he has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter.. . .” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a).2 Therefore this means if you request a religious accommodation and even if your employer grants you the accommodation, but then they fire you for your request, you have a good claim.