Under the First Amendment, Americans have the right to practice the religion of their choice. With the growing variety of religions that exist in New York and around the country comes a challenge for employers, who must allow for religious freedom in the workplace or face religions discrimination allegations in court.
Unfortunately, there are situations at the workplace where one’s religious beliefs may come in conflict with an employer, other employees or a workplace environment. Sometimes, the conflict may be demonstrated in an argument between two workers, other times the conflict may arise over the worker’s practices, such as if a worker’s convictions do not allow him to observe a particular religious holiday.
Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, private employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of religion. As a result of state and federal laws preventing discrimination, other forms of religions discrimination have been recognized in courts, namely hostile environment, disparate impact and disparate treatment. A hostile environment is a workplace in which an employee experiences hostility from co-workers because of his or her faith. This hostility is in the form of persistent and cruel harassment for the purpose of making the workplace uncomfortable and intimidating for the particular employee. Disparate impact discrimination takes place when an employer makes a policy that unfairly treats a certain religious group of employees, although the policy did not name the particular group. As for disparate treatment, this is done when an employer will only hire or advance certain people based on their religion.
No one should be made to feel intimidated at the workplace simply because of his or her religious beliefs. A person who has experienced workplace discrimination by an employer or fellow employees may wish to contact an attorney to determine what remedies may be available.
Source: Findlaw, “Religion in the Workplace“, November 10, 2014