Religion and the Workplace

Many Americans practice religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism. Religion is an important part of life for many workers. They may participate in worship services and other events in the evenings and on weekends. They may also abide by the various religious restrictions regarding dress and grooming.

When religious practices interfere with the work environment, employers must make reasonable accommodations. When employers refuse to make accommodations for a worker’s religion, they can be sued for discrimination.

What is considered a religious practice? What does the law entail for employers, and what types of accommodations may employers come across? Read on to learn more about religion in the workplace and the laws that apply.

What is Considered Religion?

Religion has a broad meaning under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While it includes organized religions like Christianity and Judaism, it also includes religions that are uncommon, new and not part of a church.

A practice is religious if the employee considers it religious. However, personal beliefs and social and political philosophies are not considered religious.

Examples of Accommodations

Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees as long as they create only a minimal hardship. Some examples include altering a dress code for a Muslim woman who must wear a headscarf, allowing an atheist to be excused from religious ceremonies, allowing a Native American employee to attend a ritual and not forcing a Jewish employee to work on the Sabbath.

All employees have the right to exercise their rights under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Employees cannot face poor treatment from employers for exercising such rights. This includes reduced pay, getting turned down for a promotion, reassignment of job duties, wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination and any form of retaliation.

What is an Undue Hardship?

Employers must try to accommodate the religious practices of employees as best as they can. However, sometimes employees request accommodations that severely affect a company’s day-to-day workings. In these cases, the employees’ accommodations may be denied because they cause an undue hardship on the employer.

An undue hardship is more than a minimal hardship on an employer, and is defined as an “action requiring significant difficulty or expense.” This depends on various factors, such as resources, the nature of the business and the structure of the operation. For example, a small company may find it more difficult to make accommodations than a larger one with many more employees.

If an employee requests a religious accommodation that is too difficult for the employer, the employer should find alternate ways to handle the request. If the cost of accommodating the religious request is too great, the employer should give the employee the opportunity to pay for the portion of the cost that would constitute an undue hardship. Employers should determine whether or not accommodations can be made on a case-by-case basis.

Work with an Experienced New Jersey Workplace Harassment Attorney

Religion is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you faced discrimination from your employer for practicing your religious beliefs, you may be able to file a claim for any economic losses you suffered.

Any type of discrimination can make an employee uncomfortable. You deserve to work in an environment free of discrimination and harassment. The New Jersey employment law attorneys at The Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP can help you file a claim. Contact us at (609) 722-7026 to schedule a free case review.