Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination can take many forms. Some forms include failure to provide reasonable accommodation, harassment, disparate (i.e. different) treatment in the terms and conditions of employment, and the use of policies and practices that have a disparate impact on members of a particular religion. Stated generally, an employer cannot require an employee to violate his or her religious beliefs as a condition of employment unless accommodating the employee would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

The Rights Protected By Religious Freedom

The right to religious freedom protects all forms of sincerely held religious beliefs. This includes persons who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, as well as persons who belong to smaller or obscure religions, provided their religious beliefs are sincere. The law also protects an employee against conduct directed at his or her religious beliefs that results in a hostile work environment for the employee.

Proving Reasonable Accommodation

The law requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the employer’s business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion. Accommodations can take various forms, such as authorizing a modified schedule, allowing a change in shifts, reassigning one’s position, and allowing exceptions to or changing personnel rules or policies. 

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