Freedom of religion and, therefore, protection from religious discrimination is a cornerstone of American culture. The law broadly recognizes that people should have the freedom to express and observe their faith in whatever way they deem appropriate.
The First Amendment protects people from any governmental violations of their right to freedom of religion. There are also numerous federal and state laws protecting religious freedom from discrimination in private settings. For example, certain employment laws prohibit employers from considering someone’s religion when deciding who to hire or how to treat existing workers.
Despite the clear rules about religious discrimination in the workplace, it is still a somewhat common issue. The following are some of the ways in which religious discrimination manifests in the modern work environment.
Some businesses intentionally try to screen out members of certain faiths to avoid hiring them or find excuses to fire workers after learning what religion they practice. Certain types of businesses, including churches and religious charities, can sometimes justify limiting their pool of job applicants to those who belong to certain faiths. For the most part, however, non-religious organizations cannot consider someone’s faith when deciding who a company should hire, what projects people work on and what compensation they receive.
Employers can also discriminate against workers based on their religion by refusing to accommodate their religious practices. Many faiths require that people observe a holy day and attend services weekly. There are also seasonal holidays that people may need to observe as part of their religion. Unless an employer is so small that they cannot accommodate a worker’s needs without causing operational issues, there is generally an expectation that employers should work with someone trying to faithfully follow their religion.
A hostile work environment
Another form of religious discrimination relates to the culture in the workplace. If the majority of workers belong to one religion and discover that another employee does not, there could be hostilities that arise. A worker who does not belong to the same religion as many of their teammates or supervisors may feel targeted and possibly even unsafe in their work environment. If the company allows numerous types of misconduct and microaggressions related to someone’s religion to go unchecked, the employee may have grounds to take legal action based on experiencing a hostile work environment.
Workers who believe they have experienced religious discrimination often need to gather evidence to help support their claims. Discussing the misconduct one has experienced with a qualified legal team can help an individual determine whether they are being subjected to workplace bullying or if the situation meets the necessary standard to constitute religious discrimination.