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Is Religion Off-Limits at Work?

January 23rd, 2020

Freedom of religion is one of the central American tenets, but that does not mean this essential right always translates easily in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it clear that it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their religion. Nearly 60 years later, these issues are still appearing regularly in the courts.

Dress Codes

One of the most contentious religious issues in the workplace in recent years revolves around dress code. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right for a young Muslim woman to wear a headscarf, a symbol of modesty in her faith, while selling clothing at Abercrombie & Fitch. The store refused this accommodation, claiming the headscarf violated its dress code. Many businesses have dress codes reflecting their brands and image, but these dress codes cannot conflict with an employee’s basic religious freedom.

Overt Discrimination

An employer with a policy of only hiring employees of a particular faith is generally practicing overt discrimination against workers of another religion. In certain situations, employees must adhere to a particular faith if the nature of the business is religious, per se. Keep in mind that such situations are rare, and the employer must prove the need for workers of a certain faith is legitimate.

Religious Accommodation

Employers should accommodate their employees’ religious beliefs, but there are limits. For example, an employee whose faith does not permit them to work on Saturdays or during certain religious holidays should usually have appropriate shift changes. However, if an employee wants to take an entire month off because it is holy to their faith, that is not usually seen as a reasonable request for most businesses. The employer must show that they made reasonable accommodations for what it generally deemed a reasonable request. There are also jobs that are not suitable for those practicing certain religious traditions. While much depends on individual circumstances, if the work involves the direct violation of a particular religion, there is little the employer can do to mitigate the situation.

Hostile Work Environment

What is never permissible is the creation of a hostile work environment for employees of particular religions or allowing certain employees to behave in such a manner toward fellow workers. However, for an employee to claim discrimination, the atmosphere of such hostility must prove severe and ongoing. This does not involve discussions about religious faith traditions or beliefs, which may fall into free speech territory. It does address illegal conduct, such as threats against the person based on their faith or regular harassment.

Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Fight for Victims of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

If you experienced discrimination at work due to your religion, you need the services of the experienced Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. For a free case evaluation, complete our online form or call us at 215-569-1999 today. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and South Jersey.

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