Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically prohibits discrimination in the workplace based upon religious grounds. People of any faith can be victims of this form of discrimination and can suffer the same emotional hardships as those who are victims of race or gender discrimination.
Requirements under the Law
Title VII specifically prohibits religious discrimination in hiring practices. It also makes it illegal for employers to use one’s religious beliefs when making decisions on promotions or transfers. Employees of certain faiths may not be segregated from others in the workplace because of their religious affiliation. Individuals do not have to be bona fide members of a particular religion, as even those with casual ties to a religious group can also face persecution.
Religious discrimination also extends to harassment in the workplace due to one’s faith. This can be in the way of derogatory comments or jokes meant to embarrass or cause emotional harm. It can also involve hostile treatment, pranks, or threats toward an employee because of his or her religion. The harassment may come from supervisors or co-workers, but supervisors are ultimately held responsible for these acts if they knew or reasonably should have known about the behavior.
Accommodation for Religious Practices
When possible, employers should accommodate the religious practices of their workers unless doing so would cause an undue hardship. For example, if employees request time off to attend worship services, this should be allowed as long as there is no interruption in the business. Employees whose faith requires them to wear certain types of clothing or adhere to special grooming policies should be permitted to follow their beliefs whenever reasonable. The employer does have the right to refuse an employee’s request if it would detract greatly from the image of the business or if the dress or grooming practices would create a safety hazard.
Religious discrimination can also occur whenever an employee is forced to participate in a religious activity or ceremony as a condition of employment. It can also occur if an individual is forbidden to exercise the right to worship as he or she sees fit. An exception to this rule is given to faith-based employers, as mandatory participation in certain events could be a standard part of one’s business. An example would be teachers at a Christian school who are required to lead Bible studies as a part of that school’s curriculum.
Discrimination based upon religious grounds is taken seriously by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Those who feel they are a victim of this type of discrimination should first try to remedy the situation by talking with their employer. If those efforts fail, the next step would be to contact the EEOC in order to find out if there is a remedy available under law.