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What constitutes religious discrimination?

Workers in California have a number of rights and protections under federal law. One is that they are protected against discrimination and harassment because of their religious beliefs and practices. Employees should be aware of what constitutes discrimination so they can take action if they conclude they are a victim.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employee's religious belief or status cannot affect terms of employment or firing or hiring status. It is also illegal to assign the employee to a position because of perceived customer predilections. The law also requires employers to give employees accommodations as they relate to their specific religions. This may include:

  • Exceptions to uniform or dress rules
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Voluntary shift swaps
  • Job reassignments such as lateral transfers
  • Designation of private work location for religious practice

The U.S. Department of Labor states that a company can refuse an accommodation if it would result in an undue hardship. Some examples of this include:

  • High cost to grant the accommodation
  • Other employees are expected to carry a higher burden of work
  • Other employee's rights are infringed upon
  • Efficiency in the workplace would decrease
  • Safety is compromised

Businesses that claim undue hardship must be able to show real proof that the accommodation would result in suffering for others or a significant loss in profit.

Employees who experience harassment due to their religion, and it results in a hostile work environment, have rights as well. This harassment can come from a manager or boss, but it may also come from a co-worker, someone else's supervisor or a contractor. Those who have experienced harassment or discrimination should contact the EEOC and file a complaint.





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