Understanding Religious Discrimination: What is Considered Religion Under Federal Law?
The First Amendment allows every American religious freedom. We all have the right to practice whatever religion we choose, whether it be Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or some other recognized religious practice.
When it comes to practicing religion in the workplace, Americans are also protected in that regard. Religious discrimination is not tolerated in the workplace. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers legally cannot discriminate against someone who has sincerely held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs and chooses to practice those beliefs in the workplace.
What is Considered Religion Under Federal Law?
According to Title VII, religion includes organized religions as well as religious beliefs that are:
- Not part of a formal church
- Only practiced by a small number of people
- Illogical or unreasonable to others
Religious beliefs include those that involve God, as well as moral or ethical beliefs based on traditional religious views. Religious practices may include praying, attending worship services, displaying religious objects, wearing religious garb or symbols, following a certain diet or refraining from certain activities. Whether a practice is religious or not depends on the employee’s motivation.
Religious Discrimination Laws
Under the law, employers cannot refuse to hire or promote an employee due to their religion. They also cannot harass, discriminate against, or treat an employee differently based solely on his or her religious beliefs.
Many employees have received unfair treatment in the workplace due to their religion. However, all employees have a right to work in an environment free of harassment. Harassment may include offensive remarks that are persistent enough to cause emotional harm to an employee. Offhand remarks and isolated incidents of teasing are not considered harassment.
In addition, an employer cannot refuse to accommodate a religious employee unless the accommodation would cause an undue hardship. An undue hardship is described as an exorbitant expense for accommodating the religious practice. The employer must consider financial costs as well as burdens on the company. For example, if employees are required to work weekends, but one employee refuses to do so due to religious practices, this is unfair to the employees who consistently work every weekend without a fuss.
Religious accommodations that employers are required to make include schedule changes, swapping shifts, changing tasks, moving employees to different positions, altering dress and grooming rules, using a work facility for prayer, and allowing breaks throughout the workday for prayer.
Contact a New York Religious Discrimination Attorney
We all have the right to practice whatever religion we choose. Employers have the duty to respect your religious choices. They cannot harass you or discriminate against you in any way for your personal preferences.
Employers have an obligation to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of employees. In addition, all religions must be treated equally. If you are facing discrimination, seek help from the experienced New York employment law attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. We can help you file a complaint and effectively resolve your case. Call our office today at (347) 464-8694 to schedule a free consultation.