EEOC Issues Religious Discrimination Prevention Resource

Author: Marta Moakley, XpertHR Legal Editor

July 26, 2016

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the release of a one-page fact sheet designed to communicate religious discrimination protections to younger workers. In addition, the EEOC will implement changes in the collection of demographic data from individuals who file charges with the agency, which may yield more precise information regarding religious discrimination.

The newly released fact sheet explains that traditional religious beliefs are protected, as well as newer religions (e.g., Rastafarianism) and atheism or agnosticism. The fact sheet is available on the EEOC web site and may be read online with other technical assistance publications.

In fiscal year 2015, the EEOC received 3,502 charges alleging discrimination on the basis of religion, with allegations including:

  • Termination;
  • Harassment;
  • Terms and conditions of employment; and
  • Reasonable accommodation.

Through its enforcement efforts, the EEOC has filed 73 lawsuits alleging religious discrimination since fiscal year 2010. As a result, the EEOC recovered approximately $4 million over the last five years, in addition to other relief.

The EEOC also referenced a joint report entitled Combating Religious Discrimination Today, coordinated by the White House and the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, the EEOC and other federal agencies. The report details a number of issues and trends in this area from an educational perspective, including:

  • An increase in religion-based bullying and harassment;
  • Employees' lack of understanding regarding legal protections and how these "translate into specific requirements, practices, and policies"; and
  • A lack of access to reasonable religious accommodations.

Finally, the EEOC plans to coordinate with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in order to develop joint outreach and education efforts concerning discrimination based on religion.