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Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Both federal and state law prohibits workplace religious discrimination, and requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of employees and prospective employees.

Examples of accommodating an employee's religious beliefs:

  • Flexible scheduling,
  • voluntary substitutions or swaps,
  • job reassignments,
  • lateral transfers

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion.

Employee's rights

  • Employers cannot schedule examinations or other selection activities in conflict with a current or prospective employee's religious needs
  • Employers cannot inquire about an applicant's future availability at certain times
  • Employers cannot maintain a restrictive dress code
  • Employers cannot refuse to allow observance of a Sabbath or any religious holiday, unless it causes undue hardship on the employer
  • The employee whose religious practice prohibits payment of union dues to a labor organization cannot be required to pay the dues, but may pay an equal sum to a charitable organization.

An employer can claim undue hardship when accommodating the employee's religious practices, if allowing such practices requires more than ordinary administrative costs. Employers may not be required to give time off to employees who work in key health or other occupations, or to those whose presence is critical to the company on any given day. Employers are also not required to take steps inconsistent witha valid seniority system to accommodate the employee's religious practices.

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