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State workplace discrimination law stricter than federal

A 2012 California law prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace. An employer must accommodate the religious requirements of an employee unless it would cause undue hardship. The hardship threshold is higher in California than at the federal level, which permits that even moderate hardship can preclude adherence to the federal nondiscrimination law.

In addition to the difference in the hardship threshold, the state has a broadened definition of religious belief and observance that encompasses grooming and dress norms. Employment discrimination at 15 percent makes up the highest number of the total 933 complaints received by the California offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in 2013, but the group also received more than 100 contacts concerning law and FBI enforcement.

In spite of the stricter law, complaints to CAIR increased in 2013 over 2012. The rise could be driven by increased discrimination. Conversely, an effort by CAIR to promote its purpose and a boosted staff to respond to complaints could have caused a jump in the statistics. The managing director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California believes that a difficulty faced by Muslims is the typical U.S. norm is set by Protestant practices.

A civil rights attorney associated with CAIR's Los Angeles office thinks that the stronger California laws are a move in the right direction. A climate of religious bias and harassment may be detrimental financially currently and in the future to any employee. When a person believes that he or she is enduring religion discrimination in the workplace, an employment law attorney can outline the full extent of the state law and the options available to make sure that the client's rights are respected and supported.

Source: KCET, "Are California's Laws Prohibiting Workplace Religious Discrimination Enough?", Sarah Parvini , September 15, 2014

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