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Is your employer discriminating against your religious beliefs?

Like many in California and elsewhere, your religious beliefs are important to you. While the practice of your faith may be a private matter, your beliefs may direct the choices you make in your daily life. Your religion is not something you turn off when you go to work, and while you may not openly preach your faith in the workplace, your beliefs may be obvious in your attire, your manners or your actions.

Despite laws protecting you from mistreatment based on your religious beliefs, you may still experience discrimination in the workplace. Religion is one of the classes protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and understanding what religious discrimination may look like may help you recognize if you are a victim of this violation of your rights.

Recognizing discrimination

Your employer may not make decisions about your status in the workplace based on your religious beliefs. Additionally, an employer who condones or permits harassment by other employees is violating your right to a non-hostile work environment. Constant mockery, name-calling threats or other actions directed at you because of your faith are illegal, and your employer should have a process in place for dealing with this behavior. However, your employer may commit religious discrimination in any of these ways:

  • Refusing to hire you or firing you
  • Transferring you to an unsavory assignment you have not requested or agreed to
  • Denying you promotions or lateral moves that would advance your career
  • Placing excessive restrictions on you or disciplining you more than other employees
  • Denying you the right to wear religious garb, such as headgear, even if it complies with the dress code
  • Retaliating against you if you complain about unfair treatment
  • Refusing to allow you time to practice your faith

Employers have several options for allowing religious employees to practice their faith. For example, your employer may schedule you off on the day of your religious services, allow you to swap shifts with other workers or provide a flexible schedule so you can meet your obligations. An employer can also allow you a time and place to step away from work if your religious observance includes prayer throughout the day.

It is not always easy to recognize when discrimination is the motivation for unfair treatment. If you suspect your religion is the reason why your employer is mistreating you or denying you important opportunities, you may wish to seek legal advice about your options.

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