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3 kinds of religious discrimination that can affect workers

On Behalf of | Feb 4, 2024 | Employment Law

female worker wearing a hijab

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and numerous federal laws reinforce that right. Someone’s religion is one of the protected characteristics that employers cannot consider when making decisions about who to hire, how much to pay or who to terminate.

Sadly, companies sometimes violate the rights of individual workers by engaging in institutional religious discrimination or by allowing misconduct in the workplace based on someone’s religion. Employees could face a variety of different challenging situations because of their religious beliefs. The following are some of the more common forms of religious discrimination in the workplace.

Terminating or not hiring someone due to their faith

With rare exceptions for churches and other faith-based enterprises, companies typically cannot treat employees differently because of their religion. Someone’s faith should not influence whether or not a business hires them for a position. Religion or lack thereof also should not have any influence on their continued employment after accepting a job. Whether someone converts or discloses information that others did not previously know, information about their religious observances should not cost them their job.

Refusing to accommodate workers

The refusal to accommodate a worker’s religious practices is a common form of religious discrimination. Perhaps a retail establishment refuses to let a worker take the Sabbath off or adjust their schedule so that they can attend regular religious services. Maybe the management or human resources team consistently denies vacation or leave requests for those attempting to observe religious holidays. Unless such accommodations would create an undue hardship for the company, there is generally an expectation that employers work with staff members who need scheduling accommodations because of their faith.

Ignoring a hostile work environment

Sometimes, religious discrimination begins with coworkers, not the company itself. Perhaps someone faces proselytizing in the workplace when their coworkers discover what church they attend. Maybe there are abusive jokes and other forms of mistreatment that occur because of someone’s religion. When coworkers or managers target someone because of their religion and create a hostile work environment, the employee facing that misconduct may have grounds to claim that they experienced religious discrimination.

Religious discrimination can feel deeply personal and can cause psychological trauma for a person experiencing such discrimination. They may also suffer major career setbacks that have financial repercussions. As such, pursuing a discrimination lawsuit is a reasonable reaction to religious discrimination in the workplace if employers aren’t responsive to a worker’s complaints.