Beware of religious discrimination and harassment at work

In the United States, everyone has the right to have their religious beliefs. There are laws in effect that protect this right. For workers in this country, there is a right to be free from religious discrimination and harassment while they are working.

Understanding the laws against religious discrimination in the workplace can help workers to know if things going on are illegal. These are some important points to know about your religion and your workplace.

All stages of employment are protected

Every stage of employment from the hiring process through termination is covered under the laws that prevent religious discrimination. Employers can’t refuse to hire people because of their faith. They can’t refuse to give you a raise, promotion or benefits based on this point. Your religion can’t be the basis of termination, a pay cut, a demotion or any other negative changes to your job status.

When it comes to harassment, you aren’t expected to deal with negative behavior based on your religion. This protection includes actions and statements made by your employer, a co-worker, a supervisor, a vendor or customers. It is your employer’s duty to have policies in place that make this point clear.

Religious practices defined

The right to not have to deal with negative behaviors based on your religion doesn’t end with only snide remarks about your religion. You have the right to receive reasonable accommodations for your closely held religious beliefs.

A religious practice for which you need reasonable accommodations are based on the tenants of your faith. For example, a Muslim might need to wear a headscarf, a Rastafarian will wear dreadlocks, and a Pentecostal woman will likely need to wear a skirt. Employers must allow those accommodations unless there is a safety factor or undue hardship caused by having to implement the accommodation.

In order to request a religious accommodation, you have to let the employer know what you need and that it is necessary under the religious allowances required by businesses. It is often difficult for employers to document what kinds of hardships will be placed on them by allowing the accommodations, which is what would have to be done to deny these requests.

Ultimately, cases of religious discrimination and harassment have to be handled on an individual basis. You have to look at the circumstances surrounding the incident. If the employer did allow or initiate illegal behavior, you might choose to take legal action.

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