Maryland Employment Lawyer
Religious Discrimination In Employment
While employees can pay and treat employees differently based on performance and qualification, it is illegal to treat employees differently based on religion.
This constitutes religious discrimination, which is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law applies to all traditional religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also to others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.
Religious discrimination can affect various aspects of employment, including:
- Hiring, firing, and/or testing.
- Pay, promotions, bonuses, and/or benefits.
- Jobs assignments and training.
Accommodation of Religious Beliefs
Employers are required to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would excessively burden the employer’s business or operations. Examples of reasonable accommodations could include:
- Providing days off, shift substitutions, floating holidays, and/or flex-time to support religious holidays.
- Permitting the wearing of traditional religious-based clothing or grooming. This may include permitting employees to wear head garments, such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf. This may also extend to honoring religious-based clothing limitations, such as a prohibition against a woman wearing pants.
The law also protects employees from harassment because of their religion. Religious harassment is unwelcome conduct based on religion, and can lead to a threatening or hostile work environment. Harassment may include:
- Religious-based jokes or slurs; or
- Mocking a worker for their religious beliefs, attire, or practices.
Religious harassment and discrimination may also take the form of coercing employees to engage in a certain religious practice in order to get a job benefit, or threatening them with a punishment if they practice their religious beliefs. For example:
- Requiring participation in a religious practice, such as attending mass or a prayer group, as an aspect of gaining a promotion.
- Threatening job loss if you are not willing to give up a religious practice, such as not working on the Sabbath.
When considering a religious discrimination case, the courts will also look at factors such as:
- Membership in a protected class. Any time religion factors into a decision about employment, you are a member of a protected class.
- Job qualification. You must show you were sufficiently and/or equally qualified for a job.
- Were you terminated, suspended, demoted, underpaid, or held back because you are a member of a protected class? There must be a relationship between your protected class status and an employer’s decision.
- Have you suffered injury? There must be an adverse affect on you, such as losing wages, not getting a promotion, or enduring emotional distress.
Contact our Maryland Employment Attorneys
You may have a claim for religious discrimination or harassment if you have experienced any of these things, and have incurred damages as a consequence. If so, you may benefit from a consultation with an attorney at Zipin, Amster & Greenberg.