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Religious Discrimination Attorneys in New York City


It is illegal for an employer, co-worker, supervisor, or business associate in New York City to treat an employee or job applicant unfairly based on his or her religious creed. This is known as religious discrimination. Whether an employee requires prayer breaks during the workday, wears specific religious attire to work, or requires time off for religious observances, an employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the employee under most circumstances. The experienced attorneys at Derek Smith Law Group in New York City have been fighting against religious discrimination in the workplace for the past 25 years.

What is Discrimination Based on Religion in New York City?

Religious discrimination is when an employer, supervisor, co-worker, or anyone associated with a company treats an employee or job applicant unfairly or harasses that person based on his or her religious creed (or practices). Unfair treatment can include:
• Wrongful termination
• Hostile Work Environment
• Retaliation
• Refusal to Hire
• Denying benefits
• Denial of the right to practice religious creeds
Religious discrimination also includes scheduling events, such as training, meetings, or important deadlines which could have been scheduled for another time, during a religious observance which would result in the employee being unable to participate or meet the demands of his or her employment.

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 Laws Protect Employees from Religious Discrimination in New York City?

Religious discrimination in the workplace is illegal. The federal law that prohibits most employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on religion is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

New York City also prohibits most employers of 4 or more employees from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on religion through the New York City Human Rights Law as well as through the Religious Rights Initiative.

The laws require that most employers must make reasonable accommodations for an employee to practice and meet religious practices unless doing so would cause an unnecessary hardship, such as not being able to properly staff a medical facility as needed or causing people who have rights of seniority to be denied these rights under company policy to accommodate the rights of a person’s religious needs.

What Evidence is Needed to Prove Religious Discrimination in New York City?

Religious discrimination in the workplace in New York City is about discrimination and persecution. Therefore, there are several ways in which employees can prove religious discrimination in the workplace.

First, an employee or job applicant can collect direct evidence of religious discrimination. This means, the employer or supervisor directly states to the employee or others that he or she was not given the job, was fired, or otherwise treated unfairly because of his or her religious creed. This type of evidence can be spoken or in writing.

Another option is to show patterns to the company practices that can show religious discrimination or persecution. For instance, there could be a culture that people of a certain religion are always passed up for a promotion in favor of people of other religions. It could even be that fair accommodations for people of certain religions are never made, even if the policies in the handbook say they will be made.

Finally, some policies and procedures are discriminatory. Policies that allow accommodations for certain observances that reflect the beliefs of one religion while ignoring the other religions and their beliefs can be an example of discriminatory policies.

What Are Examples of Religious Discrimination in New York City?

Religious discrimination in the workplace in New York City can take several forms It can be wrongful termination, harassment, a hostile work environment, denial of rights, retaliation, or any other number of actions. A few examples of workplace religious discrimination in New York City include:

  • Refusal to accommodate prayer time for Muslim employees
  • Scheduling essential meetings during the Jewish High Holidays
  • Hanging a picture of any religious figure in the office for all to see
  • Refusing to give an employee an account because the client does not want to work with a person of that religion
  • Terminating an employee for taking off for a religious holiday
  • Refusal to hire employees of certain religious beliefs
  • Using derogatory comments regarding religions
  • Discussing religious beliefs and practices in a negative or derogatory manner
  • Refusing employees the right to wear religious clothing through company policy or harassment
  • Attempting to convert an employee to a religion different from his or her own
  • Denying an employee an opportunity to meet a client because he or she wears religious clothing
  • Retaliating against an employee because he or she enacted the right to practice religious freedom
  • Unequal pay and other benefits because the employee is of a certain religion
  • Failure to allow people to observe religious practices in the manner in which their religion requires
What is the Statute of Limitations to File a Workplace Religious Discrimination Claim in New York City?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is governed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC sets a time limit of 300 days from the date of the last incident of discrimination to file a claim. Once the claim is filed, the EEOC will investigate to ensure there is enough evidence to file a lawsuit for workplace religious discrimination and issue a Right to Sue letter.

The New York City Human Rights Law is governed by the New York City Human Rights Commission (HRC). The HRC says a person can file a claim within 1 year of the date of the last incident of discrimination. The HRC will investigate the claim and issue a Right to Sue letter once it determines there is enough evidence to file a lawsuit in state court.

What Relief Can Be Offered by the Courts for Victims of Workplace Religious Discrimination?

New York City courts want to help victims of religious discrimination in the workplace get the justice they deserve. Some types of remedies the court may offer include:

  • Reinstatement of employment
  • Mandatory accommodations for religious practices
  • Back pay
  • Future wages
  • Reimbursement of benefit premiums
  • Removal or reassignment of supervisors guilty of discrimination
  • Reimbursement of medical expenses incurred as a result of the discrimination
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages, which are damages intended to punish the employer. These damages are based on, in part, the nature of the action, the gross profits of the employer, and whether this is the first offense.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Claim for Workplace Religious Discrimination?

Once the employee has received the Right to Sue letter, a complaint can be filed with the courts. At this point, the process may take anywhere from 4 to 6 months to a year or longer. Hopefully, the employer is willing to settle the case during negotiations (or mediation). In order to do this, the employer must be willing to make a reasonable offer that gives the employee the compensations he or she deserves

However, if the employer does not agree to a reasonable offer, the case may go to court. If it goes to trial, then, instead of taking 4 to 6 months to settle, it may take a year or longer to go through litigation and receive a judgment from the court.

Can a Religious Organization Discriminate Against an Employee or Job Applicant Based on Religion or Creed?

Most discrimination laws do not make exceptions for anyone or any organization However, religious discrimination is an anomaly. The law makes an exception for religious organizations, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, religious schools, and other religious institutions. The law allows these institutions to hire people who share their religious beliefs and make policies that refuse employment to those of different religious affiliations.

What Can Be Done to Proactively Prepare for Filing a Lawsuit?

If you have been victimized by workplace religious discrimination, it is important to be proactive as you prepare your claim to file with the appropriate agency.

  • If you are still employed, do not quit your job. This can hurt your case.
  • Start to gather evidence. Document every incident as it occurs. Note what was said or done, who was involved, when it occurred, and who witnessed the incident.
  • If your company has an HR department, report the discrimination. This may not change anything at work, but it will help your case.
  • If your company has a policy on how to handle religious discrimination, follow it. While this may not affect anything in the workplace, showing that you followed proper procedures will help your case.
  • Contact a religious discrimination attorney immediately.
Contact Our Experienced Religious Discrimination Attorneys in New York City Today for Your Free Consultation

We want to hear from you. Did we forget something? Do you have a question about religious discrimination in New York City that is not answered here? Contact the experienced religious discrimination attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Firm in New York City at (212) 587-0760 or fill out our form here for your free consultation. We do not collect any money until you win your case.

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