Issues of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Religious discrimination is specifically prohibited by federal law and is covered under a variety of federal statutes. However, what does and does not constitute discrimination can occasionally be confusing. So what types of situations are employers required to approach tactfully and abide by religious discrimination laws?

In just about every situation, federal law prohibits employers from making hiring or firing decisions based primarily on religious affiliation. Employers are also expected to maintain a safe and accepting atmosphere within their business. Employees should never have to fear being harassed or discriminated against for their religion by their superiors or fellow employees while they are working for a company.

Employers are also obligated to allow the employee to exercise certain privileges based on their religion. For example, they cannot employees from praying in the office while on break, and must provide a quiet area for the employee to engage in prayer during breaks if asked. Employers also cannot forbid their employees from wearing certain pieces of religious clothing, such as turbans or yarmulkes, unless that piece of clothing is deemed to be a safety hazard.

Finally, employers must grant time off to employees for religious occasions without punishment. That time off does not necessarily have to be paid, but it must be granted if it is a sincere request.

The issue of sincerity is important, however. If, for example, a Muslim employee requests off for a Christian holiday, an employer could deny the request knowing that Muslims do not celebrate that particular holiday. Employers can also deny request for time off if they have reason to believe that that request is based on a personal event or preference rather than a religious one.

If you have any questions about religious discrimination laws in New York and beyond, speak with a skilled attorney at the Derek T. Smith Law Group, PLLC today.

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