Religious discrimination occurs when an employer treats someone unfairly because of his or her religion. Religious discrimination can also take place if an employer treats an employee differently because he or she is married to someone of a particular religion. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate in any aspect of employment – hiring, firing, compensation, advancement, benefits, training, etc. It is important to note the law protects people of all sincerely held religious beliefs – not simply traditional religions, i.e. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
An employer cannot harass an employee based on the employee’s religion. Harassment may occur in the form of offensive statements based on a person’s religion. It is important to note that minor teasing, or a one-time incident that causes little harm is not illegal. However, if such incidents become common, and it results in a hostile work environment, the employer may be liable for religious discrimination. If repeated comments or teasing result in a detrimental employment decision – like being denied a promotion – the employer may also be liable for religious discrimination.
It is important to understand religious discrimination need not only come from a boss. It can be a supervisor or co-worker. In fact, an employer can be liable if it allows religious discrimination against its employees from its customers or clients.
Employers cannot segregate employees based on their religious affiliation. For example, it would be illegal for an employer to place an employee in a position where he or she would never interact with customers because of his or her religion.
Generally, employers have to provide reasonable accommodations for its employees’ religious beliefs and practices. In other words, employers must make adjustments, within reason, to allow its employees to practice their religion. This could include scheduling adjustments, leave for religious events, and/or allowing religious grooming or dressing practices. However, employers do not have to provide accommodations that impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business.
If your employer has treated you unfairly because of your religion, our employment discrimination lawyers can help. Call us at (973) 509-8500 to schedule a free phone consultation.