Religious Discrimination

It is unlawful for an employer to treat an employee or applicant unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs.  For instance, it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee because he or she misses work to observe a religious holiday.  The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion.

It is also illegal to harass a person because of his or her religion.  Harassment can include, among other things, offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or practices.

Harassment can come from just about anyone.  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.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, 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).

In addition to prohibiting discrimination and harassment, the law requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer, also known as an “undue hardship.”  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.


Religious Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodation:

As noted above, the law requires an employer to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.

Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.


Religious Discrimination and Undue Hardship:

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.


Examples of Religious Discrimination:
  • An employer promotes an employee only if he or she is willing to attend church regularly.
  • An employer fires an employee after he or she misses work to observe a religious holiday.
  • An employer refuses to hire an employee because he or she is an Orthodox Jew and observes a Saturday Sabbath.
  • An employer refuses to give an employee a raise until he or she stops discussing religious beliefs with other employees during free time such as breaks or lunch.
  • An employer tells an employee that he or she is violating the company’s dress code because he or she wears religious clothing, such as yarmulkes, turbans, or hijabs.
  • A Muslim employee’s coworker ridicules the employee for refusing to eat pork at a company picnic.
  • An employee’s coworker repeatedly mocks the employee because of his or her strong, Christian beliefs.
  • An employer requires an employee to work on his Sunday Sabbath, even though other employees are willing to trade shifts with him.
  • An employer refuses to allow employees to display religious icons or other expressions of religious belief in their work spaces, although employees are allowed to display other types of personal items.

Start a FREE Consultation

[contact-form-7 id="24" title="Free Consultation Form"]

Injured? Family or Employment Matter?

(610) 882-4000
Contact me now!