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What is considered religious discrimination?

In California and around the country, religious discrimination, which is defined as any unfavorable treatment of employees or applicants due to their religion, is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This federal law may also apply to those who have sincerely held beliefs or morals even if they don't belong to an organized religion. For example, an employer who is covered by the law's provisions may not make a hiring decision or determine an employee or applicant's salary based on his or her religion.

Employers may also not segregate employees based on their religion. An employer who puts an employee in a position where he or she will not interact with customers could be considered in violation of this provision. Employers also may not segregate based on how an employee dresses if such dress is for religious purposes. While employers may joke around or make innocent comments about an employee's religion, it may be considered discrimination if such remarks create a hostile working environment.

Employers are asked to make reasonable accommodations for their employees who adhere to religious principles. However, the requirement to make such accommodations may be waived if it creates an undue hardship on the employer. Employees are asked to work with their employers to provide a reasonable amount of information to help accommodate their needs. Employees are also encouraged to open a dialogue with their employers if they need accommodations for religious reasons.

Workers who feel as if they have been discriminated against based on their religious beliefs may want to consult with an employment law attorney who has experience in workplace discrimination cases. An employee may be entitled to compensation or reinstatement to his or her former position, and the attorney can determine what remedies are actually available in a particular case.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Religious Discrimination", November 01, 2014

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