The employment attorneys at The Harman Firm, LLP, are knowledgeable about the various federal, state, and local laws that protect employees from discrimination based on their religion—namely, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).
Religious discrimination in the workplace can take two primary forms: disparate treatment and the failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religion. Religious disparate treatment claims follow the same analysis as discrimination based on race, gender, or any other protected category. An employer may not subject an employee to harassment—whether by a manager, coworker, and third party (like a customer or security guard)—based on religion. Nor may an employer take adverse action against an employee (such as termination, demotion, or discipline) because of the employee’s religious beliefs.
Religious discrimination also includes an employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious beliefs and related observances. Such accommodations may include an exemption in a uniform policy to allow the employee to wear certain religious garments (such as a yarmulke or a headscarf), groom themselves in a certain way (as in the case of a Sikh beard or Rastafarian dreadlocks), or be absent from work to observe a religious holiday.
The employee must show that their bona fide religious belief conflicted with an employment requirement, that they informed the employer of this belief, and that they were either disciplined for failure to comply with the conflicting employment requirement or otherwise denied any requested accommodation. Once the employee establishes this, the burden shifts to the employer to prove either that it offered to reasonably accommodate the employee or that it was unable to do so without “undue hardship.” Generally, an employer must accommodate an employee with these religious needs, so long as doing so does not place an undue hardship on the employer’s business. If an employee requests a religious accommodation and is treated badly by their employer after doing so, they may also have a retaliation claim.
Some types of employers, however, such as religious employers, may legally consider an individual’s religious beliefs when making employment decisions. For example, a Jewish community center can prohibit the hiring of non-Jewish applicants, due to its religious focus and mission. Also, ministers and their employment relationships are not covered by Title VII, the NYSHRL, or the NYCHRL’s religious discrimination provisions, due to the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause’s prohibition againsts state interference with religious groups.
The Harman Firm, LLP, believes that religious beliefs should not be an obstacle to obtaining and keeping employment and assists employees who believe they have been discriminated against or harassed because of their religious beliefs, as well as those who have been denied religious accommodations by their employers. If your employer has discriminated against you based on your religion—including harassing you because of your religious beliefs, failing to accommodate your religious obligations, or terminating or refusing to hire you because of your religion—contact the employment lawyers at The Harman Firm, LLP, for experienced and supportive representation in religious discrimination claims.