NEW YORK CITY, NEW JERSEY & PHILADELPHIA RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION ATTORNEYS

IS RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION ILLEGAL? | Religious Discrimination Attorneys in NY-NJ-PA

In short, yes. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of l964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment. The Act also requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless doing so would create an undue hardship upon the employer. Flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments and lateral transfers are examples of accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs.

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Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, unless an employer can show an undue hardship, employers are prohibited from:  scheduling examinations or other selection activities in conflict with a current or prospective employee’s religious needs, inquiring about an applicant’s future availability at certain times relating their religious practice, maintaining a restrictive dress code, or refusing to allow observance of a Sabbath or religious holiday, unless the employer can prove that not doing so would cause an undue hardship.

An employer can claim undue hardship when accommodating an employee’s religious practices if allowing such practices requires more than ordinary administrative costs. Undue hardship may also be shown if changing a bona fide seniority system to accommodate one employee’s religious practices denies another employee the job or shift preference guaranteed by the seniority system.

An employee whose religious practices prohibit payment of union dues to a labor organization cannot be required to pay the dues, but may pay an equal sum to a charitable organization.

Mandatory “new age” training programs, designed to improve employee motivation, cooperation or productivity through meditation, yoga, biofeedback or other practices, may conflict with the non-discriminatory provisions of Title VII. Employers must accommodate any employee who gives notice that these programs are inconsistent with the employee’s religious beliefs, whether or not the employer believes there is a religious basis for the employee’s objection.

Religious discrimination is the unfavorable treatment of an individual because of their religious beliefs. The law protects anyone who sincerely holds religious, ethical or moral beliefs. These protections are extended to treating someone differently because they are married to an individual of a particular religion.


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CAN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS DISCRIMINATE? | Religious Discrimination Attorneys in NY-NJ-PA

While most employers are forbidden from discriminating on the basis of an individual’s religious creed, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 carves out an exception for religious organizations to discriminate on the basis of religion.


WHAT IS RELIGIOUS HARASSMENT? | Religious Discrimination Attorneys in NY-NJ-PA

Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to harass an individual because of their religion.  Harassment includes offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or practices. This must be something more than mere teasing or offhand comments as the law does not see isolated incidents as  very serious. Harassment is illegal when it becomes so frequent and severe that it creates a hostile office or work environment or the harassment results in an adverse employment decision, such as being fired or demoted.

Title VII also prohibits an employer from segregating an individual based on their religion. This can include assigning an employee to a non-customer contact position solely based on actual or perceived customer preference.


WHAT IS MEANT BY RELIGIOUS PREJUDICE? | Religious Discrimination Attorneys in NY-NJ-PA

While there is no legal definition of religious prejudice. However, religious prejudice is generally defined as discriminating against an individual based on their religious creed. There is no cause of action for religious prejudice, but there is a cause of action for employment discrimination based on one’s religious creed. Various Federal and State laws forbid employers from discriminating against individuals based on their religious creed.


WHAT IS RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN NEW YORK? | Religious Discrimination Attorneys in New York

The Attorney General of New York is dedicated to protecting New York’s deep history of religious tolerance. Balancing the wealth of religions in New York with the complexities of the workplace, New York’s anti-discrimination laws are designed to protect religious freedom in the workplace.

Under state law, employers may not treat applicants or employees differently based on their religious beliefs or practices, to include hiring, assignments, discipline, promotion and the benefits of employment. This act also protects employees from harassment based on their religious beliefs, further forbidding employers from retaliating against employees based on their religious practices.

Much like federal law, New York law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer. Under NY law, a reasonable accommodation is one that allows employees to follow their religious beliefs with minimal changes to the work environment. Protected religious beliefs not only include traditional, organized religions, but also beliefs that are not part of any formal sect, regardless of the number of practitioners.

New York law uses a few different tools to assess whether the accommodation will produce an undue hardship, these include: the type of workplace; the nature of the employees duties; the cost incurred in making the accommodation versus the relative size and budget of the employer;  the effect of the accommodation on the employer’s business; any collective bargaining agreements or established seniority systems; the number of individuals who need to be accommodated; the effect of the accommodation on workplace safety; and whether the proposed accommodation conflicts with other laws.

The law is designed to protect all aspects of individuals religious beliefs, even practices that are not required by the religion.  Before bringing a claim, an employee must notify the employer for the need of the accommodation and provide sufficient time and information for the employer to assess the request.  In order to adequately protect an employee’s rights, it is important employees and employers work together to find the appropriate accommodations. While difficult, an employer may ask questions about an individual’s religious habits in an effort to evaluate the request and identify possible accommodations. It is important to note, an employer must provide reasonable accommodation, this does not give the employee carte blanche to demand any accommodation the employee requests.


WHAT IS RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN NEW YORK CITY? | Religious Discrimination Attorneys in New York City

New York City religious anti – discrimination laws are closely aligned with New York State law and federal law, with a notable exception being the City allowing for individuals to bring claims against employers with as few as four (4)  employees, as opposed to the fifteen (15) employee threshold under the federal law.

The New York City Human Rights Commission routinely brings cases on behalf of individuals. To file a complaint, you must call for an appointment to discuss the claim. It must be noted that an individual cannot file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights if they have already filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or any similar organization to include the NYS Division of Human Rights.

The New York City Human Rights Commission is very active in bringing cases on behalf of individuals who are the victims of employment discrimination. In January 2017, the Commission announced allegations of religious discrimination against Pax Assist, a contractor who provides wheelchair assistance to passengers of JFK. Pax Assist, which employs more than 250 employees allegedly refused to allow Muslim employees breaks for daily prayers, as well as breaks for eating after their Ramadan fast. It alleged supervisors took to the radio system to inform employs that the company “[will] give you a break on our time, not your time” further stating “we don’t care about Ramadan.”

This a clear violation of New York anti-discrimination laws. Pax Assist is well over the four employee threshold for standing to bring this type of case. Denying prayer breaks amounts to religious harassment and discrimination.

Prayer breaks are a well-known tenet of Muslim religious practice, and allowing individuals to pray during the day is a reasonable accommodation many employers across the nation routinely provide for their Muslim employees. Employing over 250 employees, it is hard to imagine how allowing the small minority of Muslim employees to quietly pray for a few minutes throughout the day would cause an undue burden to Pax Assist, especially in light of various labor laws which require breaks throughout the day such and the general practice of allowing employees to take smoke breaks, both having the effect of removing the employee from their job for a period no longer than it would take for a Muslim employee to pray.  Allowing Muslim employees small breaks to pray throughout the day would fall squarely within the reasonable accommodation provision of New York State anti-discrimination law.

The broad announcements over a PA system which specifically targeted Ramadan, a practice almost exclusive to Muslim employees, created a hostile workplace environment by discriminating against specific employees based on their religious beliefs. Further, these supervisors created an offensive work environment by making the declaration that “we don’t care about Ramadan,” effectively telling its employees that their religious beliefs are of no concern to the company.

New York City Human Rights laws were designed specifically to combat this type of discrimination and harassment. The Commission has stated that it will not tolerate this type of religious discrimination. The allegations carry a maximum civil penalty of $250,000, with potential compensatory damages for those workers who were unfairly fired.

Our experienced employment discrimination attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, have years dealing with religious discrimination in New York and New York City employment discrimination claims. We are willing to work tirelessly to ensure your religious freedoms are protected in the work place.


WHAT IS RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN NEW JERSEY? | Religious Discrimination Attorneys in New Jersey

The laws of New Jersey are aimed at protecting individuals against discriminating against employees based on their creed or religious beliefs. These protection extend to individuals who belong to a particular religious faith or attend a particular place of worship; non-believers; associates of persons of a particular religion; individuals perceived to be part of a particular religion, regardless of actual affiliation with the religion; or those who have sincere and meaningful moral or ethical beliefs which they hold with the strength of traditional religious views. These protections apply exclusively to religious creed and not political or social views such as membership in the Ku Klux Klan.

Under New Jersey law, an individual has a right to apply for, and be fairly considered for, any job, internship or traineeship no matter what the individuals religious beliefs are. An employer is also prohibited from terminating employment or treating individuals differently in the terms and condition of their employment because of their sincerely held religious beliefs.

However, an exception to this rule is carved out for religious organizations. Religious organizations are allowed to use religious affiliations as a job requirement  to employ clergy, religious teachers or other employees engaged in the religious activities of the organization. These types of organizations are able to follow the tenets of their religion in when they establish a criteria for employment.

In applying for a job, it is unlawful for a non-religious organizations to ask what religion or faith an individual belongs to, whether the individual is affiliated with a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other such place of worship, or what are the individuals practices, such as whether the individual attends services regularly.

New Jersey civil rights law also protect individuals from religious based harassment in the workplace. For example, the law protects individuals from being subjected to religious slurs or harassment because of garb required by their religious beliefs. The New Jersey Civil Rights Law allows individuals to bring claims against the employers if the harassment is caused by supervisors, co-workers or non-employees, such as vendors.

New Jersey law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for the religious practices or observances of employees or applicants for employment unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer. Undue hardships include anything beyond normal administrative costs. Employers may be required to modify dress or appearance codes to accommodate an individual’s religious beliefs. These protections extend to allowing time off for sincerely held religious practices such as the Sabbath or other holy days.

Before claiming an undue hardship, an employer must first attempt to accommodate the employees requests. However, this does not mean an employer is required to violate a bona fide seniority system. Further, because the law protects non-believers, employers may enact policies which restrict evangelical or other religious practices.


WHAT IS RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN PENNSYLVANIA? | Religious Discrimination Attorneys in Philadelphia

The Pennsylvania Human Rights Law (“PHR”) protects the opportunity of individuals to obtain any employment for which that individual is qualified, unless it is based upon a bona fide occupational qualification, or, in the case of fraternal corporations or associations such employment is based upon membership in such association or corporation, except where doing so would violate security regulations established United States or The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The PHR forbids any employer to refuse to hire, employ, contract with, bar, discharge from employment, or  otherwise discriminate with respect to compensation, promotion, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment based on an individual’s religious belief, assuming the individual is best able and most competent to perform the services.

These restrictions do not extend to: (1) operation of the terms or conditions of any bona fide retirement or pension plan with a minimum service requirement; (2) operation of the terms or conditions of any bona fide group or employee insurance plan; or (3) age limitations placed upon entry into a bona fide apprenticeship program of two years or more, approved by the State Apprenticeship and Training Council of the Department of Labor and Industry.

In the application and hiring process, the Pennsylvania legislature has deemed it unlawful for any employer, employment agency or labor organization to: (1) elicit information, or make/keep a record of, or use any form of application containing questions or entries concerning the religious creed of an application; (2) to print or publish, or cause to be printed or publish, any advertisement indicating a religious preference; (3) to deny , or limit, employment because of religious creed; (4) confine or limit recruitment or hiring of individuals with the intent to side skirt the spirit and purpose of this act.

The PHR further restricts labor or employment organization from denying full and equal membership rights, or otherwise discriminating against individuals because of their religious creed. The PHR also protects employers from discriminating against an individual because they opposed a practice forbidden by this act, or because they have made a charge, testified  or assisted in any investigation, proceeding or hearing under the PHR. It is further unlawful for any individual, employer, employment agency , labor organization or employee to aid or coerce another individual into doing an act that is deemed unlawful by the PHR, or to obstruct a person from complying with the PHR. It is also unlawful for an employer to fail to classify an individual properly  or otherwise discriminate against another individual because of their religious creed. The PHR not only burdens employers but it also prohibits individuals seeking employment from publishing or causing to be published any advertisement which expresses a limitation as to the religious creed of a prospective employer.


Religious Discrimination Attorneys in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia

In New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, there are robust legal systems dedicated to protecting the rights of every individual, regardless of their religious creed . If you have questions about religious protections in the workplace, please contact the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, religious discrimination attorneys in New York City, Philadelphia or New Jersey toll-free at 877-469-5297 to discuss your potential case.

Religious Discrimination | New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers

     
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