Aggressively Protecting Workers’ Rights in New York
When an employer treats an employee unfavorably because of their religious beliefs, the employer is practicing religious discrimination. Federal law prohibits such conduct, and any person subjected to it has the right to file a discrimination claim against the employer. Effectively taking legal actions requires the help of a skilled attorney familiar with employment law and with experience navigating these types of matters. At Nisar Law Group, P.C., we provide high-quality legal representation throughout New York and will deliver the sound advice and guidance you need for your religious discrimination case.
What Is Religious Discrimination?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that it's unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an applicant or employee based on, among other things, their religion. The law concerns actions made at all stages of the employment process.
Thus, if an employer does any of the following because of a person's religion, they are violating the law:
- Declines an applicant,
- Fails to promote an employee,
- Demotes a worker,
- Denies fringe benefits, or
- Unfairly distributes other conditions of employment
Religious discrimination is prohibited whether it is based on the applicant's or employee's religious practices or lack thereof. For instance, an employer cannot make an employment decision because a person practices Judaism, nor can they take such action because the individual is an atheist. Additionally, an applicant or employee cannot be discriminated against because of the religion their spouse practices.
Both direct forms of discrimination, such as unfair promotion decisions, as well as indirect discrimination, like having policies that disadvantage employees of a particular religion, are unlawful. However, if a policy does exist that seems to treat a worker unfavorably, it may stay in place as long as the employer has objective justification for implementing it – meaning it's necessary for safe business practices.
Title VII protections apply not only to traditional religions, such as Christianity or Buddhism, but also smaller sects or groups. A group is considered a religion if it is meaningful and concerns issues like life, death, or purpose. Personal beliefs, however, are generally not regarded as religious and not covered by federal law.
Making Reasonable Accommodations for Religious Beliefs and Practices
Title VII also provides that an employer must make reasonable accommodations for employees' religious beliefs. Employee's with specific needs because of their religion must submit a notice to their employer for such needs. For instance, an employee may ask for an adjusted schedule or to wear certain clothing because of their religion. The employer must reasonably accommodate the request as long as it does not create an undue hardship.
An undue hardship means that the accommodation may, among other things:
- Be costly,
- Create a safety hazard,
- Decrease efficiency, or
- Violate other employees' rights
Disparate Treatment and Hostile Work Environments Because of Religion
Although protections are in place to prevent religious discrimination, some employers or colleagues may engage in conduct that causes unfair treatment and create hostile work environments. For instance, a worker may be subject to harassment because of their religious practices or beliefs, which means that they suffer continued and severe treatment that is intimidating or offensive. They may, for example, constantly be subject to cruel jokes or comments about their religion.
In some cases, employers might treat certain employees differently because of their religion. For example, they may not assign the employee to tasks that require customer interaction because of the religious garb they wear. Such treatment may be considered unlawful and grounds for legal action.
What to Do If You're the Victim of Religious Discrimination
If your employer has treated you unjustly because of your religious beliefs, you can and should take action to remedy it. You may start by bringing the conduct to the attention of your employer – whether it's expressing your need for accommodation or exposing a hostile work environment.
If talking to your employer does not lead to appropriate solutions, you can file a discrimination claim.
How to File a Claim for Religious Discrimination
In New York, you can file a religious discrimination claim with several agencies: the New York Division of Human Rights, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or the New York City Commission on Human Rights (if you're in New York City). Filing a claim requires that you completely and accurately detail the situation, as well as meet specific deadlines. Because the process is complex, it's best to handle it with the help of a knowledgeable employment law attorney.
Getting legal representation from the start can also be helpful if your matter is not resolved by one of the agencies you submitted a claim with and must be taken to court.
Hire a New York Employment Attorney
Workplace discrimination is against the law and unacceptable. If you believe you have been discriminated against based on your religion, the skilled legal team at Nisar Law Group, P.C. can provide you with intelligent, client-focused legal counsel. Learn about your legal options in detail during an initial case evaluation.