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Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Religious discrimination in the workplace involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs and/or 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. California and federal law protects anyone who has sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Additionally, the law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and fringe benefits.

Most employers are aware that they cannot discriminate against employees and applicants based on their religion. Where many employers are not so clear is their requirement to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee’s or applicant’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the business’s operations. Common religious accommodations in the workplace include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.

Workplace Policies that Could Discriminate

Perhaps your employer’s dress code policy is infringing on your religious beliefs. For example, if a business has a ‘no facial hair’ policy’ and requests that a job applicant who is a member of the Sikh faith shave his beard and refuses to hire him if he does not, the employee could have a potential claim for religious discrimination.

Another policy to examine relates to holy days, such as the Sabbath. If a key tenet of an employee’s faith is to observe Sabbath by refraining from secular work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, an employer must make reasonable accommodations for the person’s religious practices.

For more information on religious discrimination, contact the Orange County employment attorneys at Hardin & Associates today.