Religious Discrimination


Is Religious discrimination illegal in the workplace?

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.

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.

What is Religious Harassment?

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?

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.

Can Religious Organizations Discriminate?

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.

Religious Discrimination Law Firm

In New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Miami, 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 at toll-free at 800-807-2209 to discuss your potential case.


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