HR Support on Religious Discrimination at Work

Editor's Note: Address workplace discrimination based on religion.

Beth P. Zoller Overview: Title VII and various state laws provide individuals with protection from religious discrimination in the workplace. Therefore, an employer is prohibited from treating an applicant or employee unfavorably based on his or her religious beliefs. Generally, employers only need to accommodate the needs of individuals who have sincerely held religious beliefs. An employee cannot be forced to participate or not participate in a religious activity as a condition of employment.

Further, employers should understand that there are exceptions when it comes to religious discrimination. It is generally permissible for employers to give employment preference to members of their own religion. In addition, clergy members performing religious functions generally cannot bring claims under the federal employment discrimination laws such as Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Equal Pay Act (EPA).

Trends: A recent survey by the Pew Research Center identifies a significant rise religious intolerance, bias and hate crimes against religious individuals. Therefore, there is a greater need to protect religious individuals in the workplace. Thus, employers need to focus on policies and practices that will prohibit discrimination based on religion. Further, employers should be aware that in 2014, the EEOC issued updated guidance for employers regarding providing employees with religious accommodations when it comes to dress codes, grooming and appearance. The guidance covers clothing as well as hairstyles and facial hair. Additionally, the EEOC has identified targeting recruiting and hiring practices that discriminate against ethnic and religious groups as a priority in its Strategic Enforcement Plan.

Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor

Latest items in Religious Discrimination

  • Managing Religious Issues in the Workplace: Supervisor Briefing and PowerPoint Presentation Added

    Date:
    31 August 2015
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    To help supervisors manage religion in the workplace, XpertHR has added a Religion in the Workplace Supervisor Briefing.

  • Managing Religious Issues in the Workplace - Supervisor Briefing

    Type:
    Supervisor Briefings

    This briefing for supervisors examines the law and best practices for supervisors when it comes to managing religious issues in the workplace such as avoiding religious discrimination, harassment and retaliation, reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs and practices and types of religious accommodations.

  • Religious Accommodation Handbook Statement

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Employers covered by Title VII and seeking to advise employees of their right to seek accommodations based on religion should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Ramadan and the Workplace

    Date:
    22 June 2015
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

  • Supreme Court Lowers Bar for Accommodation Claims: Legal Insight, Employment Law Manual Updated

    Date:
    15 June 2015
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., the US Supreme Court held that an applicant seeking to establish a religious discrimination claim based on a failure to accommodate is not required to show that the potential employer had knowledge of the individual's need for an accommodation.

  • Supreme Court Rules Against Abercrombie & Fitch in Religious Bias Case

    Date:
    02 June 2015
    Type:
    News

    In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the Supreme Court has ruled that a Muslim woman can move forward with her religious discrimination lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The woman, who wears a hijab, claimed she was denied a job because of the company's appearance policy.

  • Indiana Religious Freedom Law Confounds Employers

    Date:
    30 March 2015
    Type:
    News

    Indiana Governor Mike Pence has signed a controversial law that prevents the government from infringing on a business's or individual's religious liberty in the Hoosier State. The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) allows any for-profit business to assert a free exercise of religion claim. But opponents claim this law sanctions discrimination against the LGBT community.

  • EEOC Releases New Publications on Employee Religious Garb, Grooming

    Date:
    17 March 2014
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released two new publications instructing employers with regard to employee religious garb and grooming in the workplace: a lengthy Question and Answer Guide as well as a Fact Sheet on religious discrimination and accommodation. The EEOC notes that this guidance comes after a marked increase in the number of religious discrimination lawsuits.

  • Seeking the Right 'Look' for Employees Proves Costly for Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch

    Date:
    27 September 2013
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has reached a settlement in two religious discrimination lawsuits over retailer Abercrombie & Fitch's "Look Policy," a dress code that prohibited employees from wearing hijabs or religious headscarves. As part of the settlement, Abercrombie will pay $71,000 plus attorney fees and revise its dress code policy.

  • Abercrombie Case Serves as Warning to Employers Who Deny Requests for Religious Accommodations

    Date:
    18 September 2013
    Type:
    News

    A recent decision from a federal district court in California provides important lessons for employers when it comes to religious accommodations. Essentially, it requires the employer to present concrete evidence of undue hardship should it refuse to grant a request for a religious accommodation.

About this topic

HR guidance on how to create and implement policies and practices that prohibit discrimination based on religion and make sure that religious employees and applicants are treated fairly.