What is religious discrimination at work?

religious discrimination

Religious discrimination is prohibited by both federal law and Pennsylvania law

The United States, a country home to people of various religious backgrounds and faiths, prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of religion. The federal law protecting workers from employment discrimination is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, commonly referred to as “Title VII.” Employees in Pennsylvania are also protected from discrimination under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”).

Title VII specifically states:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Religious Discrimination Defined

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or “EEOC,” the term “religion” includes Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, as well as “religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, or only held by a small number of people.”

Religious discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employee is treated unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. Religious discrimination is prohibited in every aspect of employment including:

  • Hiring,
  • Firing,
  • Pay,
  • Job assignments,
  • Promotions,
  • Layoff,
  • Training,
  • Fringe benefits, AND
  • Any other condition of employment.

Additionally, religious discrimination occurs when an employee is treated unfavorably as a result of (1) his or her association with an individual who holds a particular religious belief OR (2) his or her association with a certain religious organization or group. You can take legal action if you experienced religious discrimination in any of the above forms.

Examples of Religious Discrimination

  • An employer refuses to hire a job applicant because her husband practices Islam.
  • An employer makes offensive comments about an employee’s Jewish faith so often that it creates a hostile work environment.
  • A Buddhist woman is paid a lower salary than a Christian woman despite the fact that they work the same position and have the same education, experience, and qualifications.
  • A Catholic man is refused a promotion because his employer disagrees with Catholic teachings.
  • A man who wears religious garb to work is placed in a position just because it does not require him to interact with customers in person. His employer believes that customers would rather not interact with someone who wears such clothes.

Religious Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodations

Employers are required to accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs in the workplace. Remember that reasonable accommodations must be available to an employee even if his or her religious beliefs are newly adopted or not consistently practiced. Denial of a reasonable accommodation, unless it creates an undue hardship for the employer, is a form of religious discrimination. Reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs include, but are not limited to:

  • Flexible scheduling to accommodate an employee’s scheduled prayer
  • Exceptions to the dress code to accommodate an employee’s beliefs
  • Changes in job duties so that an employee’s work assignments do not interfere with his or her beliefs
  • Excused absence from religious activities that occur in the workplace

Talk to an Attorney about Religious Discrimination

EEOC Attorney

If you believe you have experienced religious discrimination in the workplace, don’t hesitate to contact an employment attorney. Legal remedies are available under Title VII and the PHRA. For a free and immediate consultation with an experienced employment lawyer, call KM&A in Pittsburgh at 412-626-5626 or in Philadelphia at 610-616-5686. We can also be reached by email at lawyer@lawkm.com.