What Is Religious Discrimination?
At its core, religious or belief discrimination involves being treated differently, unfairly, or unequally because of your beliefs or religious practices. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employment discrimination based on religion, race, sex, color, or nationality is prohibited, and religion is defined as “all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.” Unfortunately, many people suffer from religious or belief discrimination at work, and the discrimination can take on many forms.
7 Forms of Religious (or Belief) Discrimination
Religious discrimination can take on many forms and either fall into one of two categories: direct or indirect religious discrimination. While direct discrimination occurs when a person treats someone unfairly and unequally of their religion intentionally, indirect discrimination occurs when employers or agencies implement rules or policies that apply to everyone but disadvantage certain employees because of their religious practices.
Here are seven forms of belief discrimination you may experience at your job.
- Clothing requirements. If your employer implements clothing requirements and policies that violate your religious beliefs, they have indirectly discriminated against you. For instance, if they prohibit head coverings and jewelry, that can be seen as discriminatory against Muslim women who wear hijabs and Sikh men who were symbolic bracelets.
- Harassment. Employees may be verbally or physically harassed or bullied because of their religious practices or background. Verbal and physical harassment can include receiving offensive messages, being called derogatory names, and suffering a physical attack.
- No time allotted for religious observance. Another form of indirect belief discrimination occurs when an employee’s work schedule prohibits them from taking time for religious observance.
- Promotion caps. Because of your religious beliefs or practices, your employer may hinder you from being promoted by claiming your daily prayers or religious activities affect your work. However, your ability to receive promotions should solely be based on your performance.
- Unfair compensation. If you receive less pay than an employee with the same title and qualifications but who has a different religious background, that is discrimination.
- Unjust dismissal. A form of direct discrimination is being unjustly dismissed from your job because of your religion. While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from firing employers because of their religion or the need to rake days off to observe religious events, some agencies and employers violate this act and your civil rights.
- Victimization. After suffering from any form of discrimination, employees have the right to report the occurrences and make a claim. However, after making a complaint, employees are further victimized and bullied by their employer and/or co-workers.
How to Address Discrimination at Work
If you or a coworker have been discriminated against based on your religion, here are some actions you can take to address the situation.
- Call the action(s) out. When you experience religious discrimination (indirect or direct), you should immediately bring the discriminatory act to the person’s attention. You can tell them how they have violated your civil rights and how what they said or did affected you, which will hopefully help them change their behaviors.
- Talk to HR or management. You can report the discrimination to your manager, HR, or the offender’s manager. Review your company’s handbook to learn how they ask employees to address and report discrimination.
- File an official complaint. Your company should have a complaint process, and you can file a formal complaint against the offender.
- Consult with an attorney. You can take legal action against your harasser and/or your employer (if they fail to take action or discriminate against you). With the help fo an attorney, you can fight to be compensated for the hardship and toll that the hostile work environment and discrimination took on you.
Get Legal Help
Your beliefs and religious practices don’t affect your ability to do your job, and they shouldn’t affect how you are treated while at work. At the Law Office of Steven Fine, our attorney is dedicated to helping clients address violations of their constitutional rights. If you have suffered religious discrimination at work, Attorney Fine can help you:
- Understand your legal rights and options
- File a grievance with your employer, agency, or union
- File a lawsuit
- Pursue justice and compensation
To schedule a case consultation, contact our firm online or at (312) 436-0638 today.