What is Religious Discrimination?
Religious discrimination involves treating an employee or job applicant unfavorably because of that person’s religious beliefs. The law protects not only those who belong to traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam, but also other beliefs as long as such are sincerely held religious or moral beliefs. This includes workplace segregation based on religion (including religious garb and grooming practices), such as assigning an employee to a non-customer contact position because of actual or feared customer preference.
Religious discrimination is also prohibited against someone who is married to (or associated with) a particular religion.
Accommodation of Religious Beliefs
The law requires an employer to reasonably accommodate sincere religious beliefs unless doing so would cause an undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation might cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially burdensome or hazardous work.
Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible work schedules, voluntary shift swaps or substitutions, job reassignments or lateral transfers. The requirement for accommodations also applies to dress or grooming practices that are for religious reasons which might include such things as head coverings, facial hair or certain hairstyles.
When an employee needs an accommodation for sincerely held religious beliefs, he/she should notify the employer and the employer/employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request, which should be granted absent an undue hardship to the employer.
Employers’ Religious Beliefs
An employee cannot be forced to participate or not participate in a religious activity as a condition of employment.