Because religious freedom is a fundamental right of every citizen of the United States, local, state and federal employment laws prohibit religion discrimination and harassment. Religious customs, however, often come into conflict with employment practices. If you have been treated unfairly at work because of your religious beliefs, it takes a skilled employment law attorney to protect your rights.
At Lipsky Lowe LLP, our legal team is dedicated to combating workplace discrimination in all its forms. If your employer has discriminated against you based on your religious or philosophical views or a coworker has made derogatory comments about your religion, we can help. Our discrimination attorneys will be the strength in your corner and help you fight back against religious discrimination and harassment.
What is Religion discrimination?
Religious discrimination occurs when you are treated unfairly at work because of your religious beliefs or the beliefs of someone with whom you are associated. In an employment setting, religion refers not only to established religions such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, but any sincerely held ethical, personal, or religious beliefs (e.g. atheism, ethical humanism). Whether it’s a specific company policy or the conduct of supervisors and/or coworkers, discrimination on the basis of an individual’s religion is prohibited under the New York City and New York State Human Rights Laws and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).
In short, employers are prohibited from discriminating based on religion. Generally, there are two forms of religion discrimination in the workplace — disparate treatment and failure to provide reasonable accommodation:
- Religious disparate treatment — Making an employment decision based on religion, such as hiring, demoting, terminating, or taking another adverse employment action against an employee based on religion. Disparate treatment can also arise when an employee is subjected to harassment because of his or her beliefs, whether by a supervisor, coworker, or third party (e.g. customer, vendor).
- Reasonable accommodation discrimination — Failing to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious beliefs, such as allowing an employee to observe daily prayers, wear certain religious garments (e.g. a yarmulke or hijab), take time off to observe a religious holiday, or follow grooming customs (e.g. a Sikh beard or Rastafarian dreadlocks).
It is worth noting that employers are not required to provide an accommodation that would create a hardship for the employer. Under federal law, undue hardship is one that poses more than a minimal cost to the employer. Undue hardship is more broadly defined under the New York City Human Rights Law to mean one that requires significant expense or difficulty to the employer.
What is religious harassment?
Religious harassment is offensive conduct or comments regarding a person’s religious beliefs that is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. This includes making offensive jokes about another’s religion as well as proselytizing (attempting to convert someone from one religion or belief to another) if it interferes with an employees ability to perform his or her job duties.
Examples of religious discrimination and harassment include:
- Denying employment, promotion, pay raises, or other benefits to employees based on their religious beliefs and practices
- Refusing to accommodate certain religious practices, such as daily prayer or Sabbath observance, provided that it does not present unreasonable burden to the employer
- Terminating an employee for taking time off to observe a religious holiday if the employee followed the proper protocol for requesting leave
- Prohibiting an employee from having contact with clients because of religious wear
- Forbidding certain hairstyles or clothing related to an employee’s religion
- Making derogatory comments or depictions about religion or its followers thereby creating a hostile work environment
If you are being harassed or discriminated against because of your religious beliefs, you have powerful legal recourse under the applicable employment laws. The best decision you can make to protect your religious freedom in the workplace is to contact an experienced employment law attorney.
Contact Our New York City Religion Discrimination Attorney
At Lipsky Lowe, we believe that all employees have the right to be treated fairly regardless of their religious beliefs. If you have been subjected to religious discrimination or harassment in the workplace, you may be frightened and not know where to turn. Remember we are here to help. We will take the time to explain all of your rights and help you explore all of your options.
Although religious discrimination claims can often be resolved through negotiations, we are fully prepared to take your case to court if it becomes necessary. Depending on the circumstances you may be awarded compensatory damages for your pain and suffering, lost wages or other losses, as well as punitive damages that are designed to punish your employer’s discriminatory conduct. If you have been the victim of religious intolerance in the workplace, contact our office today for a free evaluation of your case.