If you experienced religious discrimination in the workplace, you have legal options. The dedicated attorneys at the Employment and Consumer Law Group focus exclusively on protecting the rights of employees and consumers in Tennessee. We advocate for individuals, not companies, and we have a proven track record of success in cases against some of the largest corporations in the country.
Let us defend you and your guaranteed rights. Contact our office today for a free, confidential consultation with a religious discrimination lawyer.
What is Religious Discrimination?
Religious discrimination involves mistreating someone because of their religious beliefs. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the law protects those belonging to traditional, organized religions and those with deeply held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs, even if they do not adhere to organized religion.
Examples of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
Common examples of religious discrimination in the workplace include:
- Not hiring someone because of their religious beliefs
- Firing someone based on their religion
- Paying employees different wages based on their faith or spiritual practices
- Harassing someone over their religious beliefs with slurs or inappropriate jokes
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s prayers or other practices
- Blocking an employee from a promotion based on their religion
- Moving an employee away from a client-facing or customer-facing role because of their religious beliefs, garb, or grooming practices
What Laws Protect You from Religious Discrimination?
Several laws protect employees from religious discrimination at work. At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. However, Title VII applies only to private employers with 15 or more employees, state or local government entities with 15 or more employees, the federal government as an employer, unions, and employment agencies, according to the EEOC.
For the most part, Tennessee’s laws against religious discrimination in the workplace conform to federal regulations. The Tennessee Human Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination based on “race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.” The Tennessee Human Rights Commission is the state agency that handles complaints about religious discrimination at work. While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies only to businesses with 15 or more employees, the Tennessee Human Rights Act applies to companies with eight or more employees.
Penalties for Religious Discrimination
The penalties for religious discrimination in the workplace depends on the circumstances. An employee discriminated against for their religion may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the employer in civil court. If the employer is found liable, it may be ordered to pay compensation based on the harm or losses the employee suffered. Every case is different, so speak to an experienced religious discrimination lawyer to learn your legal options.
Are There Exceptions to Religious Discrimination Laws?
Yes. Religious organizations such as churches and parochial schools are generally allowed to give employment preference to those who adhere to the organization’s religion. However, religious organizations and schools cannot discriminate based on race, gender, or another protected characteristic, even if the organization claims such exclusion is permitted due to its religious beliefs.
What is a Reasonable Religious Accommodation?
Federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. Generally, a reasonable accommodation would not create an undue hardship for the employer. The EEOC defines undue hardship as something that is “costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.”
Common examples of reasonable accommodations include flexible scheduling, shift substitutions, or job reassignments. The law applies to an employee’s dress or grooming practices related to their religious beliefs, such as head coverings, hairstyles, or specific garments.
Religious Harassment vs. Religious Discrimination
According to the EEOC, religious harassment in the workplace occurs when:
- Employees are required or coerced into adopting, abandoning, or altering their religious beliefs as a condition of employment.
- Employees are subjected to unwelcome statements or actions so severe that the employee finds the work environment to be abusive or hostile.
Behavior that is severe and persistent is often considered harassment. For instance, religious discrimination occurs when one employee is paid less than another employee with a similar role based on the employee’s religion. On the other hand, religious harassment occurs when an employer makes frequent and severe offensive remarks about an employee’s religion, creating a hostile work environment or prompting the employee to quit.
Both religious harassment and discrimination are prohibited by state and federal law, and you should speak to an attorney immediately if you are mistreated at work.
Can Employers Make You Work on a Religious Holiday?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees’ rights to take time off from work for religious holidays as long it doesn’t create an undue hardship for the employer. While an employer can deny a time-off request, it should consider whether giving the employee the holiday off would result in severe difficulty or suffering for the company.
What to Do if You Have Experienced Religious Discrimination
If you have experienced religious discrimination at work, here are some steps you can take:
- Bring the issue to your manager’s attention to discuss the situation and potential solutions. Document your discussion.
- File a formal complaint with your company’s Human Resources Department if the discrimination continues.
- File a complaint with the EEOC, which is generally a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit.
- Talk to a religious discrimination attorney to explore your legal options and whether you have grounds to file a suit.
Were You the Target of Religious Discrimination? Contact a Tennessee Lawyer Today
Every employee has a right to be treated fairly regardless of their religious, moral, or ethical beliefs. Call or contact the Employment and Consumer Law Group today if you have been discriminated against at work because of your religion. The first consultation is free.