Businesses often employ a staff that practices half a dozen different religions. Some employees are more religious and worship daily, while others seldom participate or do not participate at all. Regardless of the frequency of their employees’ worship, employers must ensure that their rules, regulations, and business practices align with both state and federal regulations prohibiting discrimination based upon religion. Both the law and morality dictate that employers not discriminate against employees who have religious practices and cultural customs different than their own.

Indian women in traditional wedding and henna

When a job applicant or former employee alleges religious discrimination, the legal and financial consequences for your business can be devastating.  It is critical that you approach the matter with knowledgeable professional support. At Bellatrix PC, our experienced employment attorneys are dedicated to creating comprehensive, effective, and personalized defense strategies, and are proud to serve entities of all sizes, structures, and industries.

To arrange for a confidential case evaluation, call Bellatrix PC today at (800) 449-8992.

FEHA and Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964

There are two significant laws which all employers must be mindful of with regard to employees who practice a religion: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the federal level, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, commonly referred to as “FEHA,” at the state level.  Together, these two laws encompass numerous anti-discrimination provisions.

As many employers are already aware, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 famously prohibits discrimination upon the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, or religion.  More specifically, Title VII prohibits treating employees differently due to either religious practices or religious beliefs, including the lack thereof.  This applies to both your personal conduct as an employer, and to all aspects of employees’ job duties and employment.  This could include, but is not limited to, matters of:

  • Benefits
  • Disciplinary Actions
  • Harassment
  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Job Assignments
  • Promotions and Demotions
  • Recruitment

Title VII applies to all businesses with a workforce of at least 15 employees, in addition to unions and employment agencies.

FEHA, or the Fair Employment and Housing Act, mandates similar requirements for employers in the state of California.  With several rare exceptions, FEHA is even more expansive in scope than Title VII, extending to small businesses employing as few as six employees.

Compliance with Employment Law: Avoiding Litigation

In addition to delineating prohibited acts of harassment, intolerance, and discrimination, Title VII also prohibits denying an employee’s request for religious accommodation, provided such a request is “reasonable” and does not burden the employer with undue hardships.  Therefore, in order to better avoid religious discrimination lawsuits under Title VII and/or the FEHA, covered employers must attempt to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious beliefs or practices in the workplace.

However, demonstrating undue hardship can be a very difficult for employers.  Most of the time, at least some form of accommodation that is discussed will not be found by courts to create an undue hardship and employers should generally offer some type of accommodation where possible.  Employers should also be careful to remember not to ask employees about the specifics of their religious beliefs, their availability for future holidays based on religion, or to require a dress code that violates an employee’s religious beliefs or practices.

On a final note, it is critical to remember that Title VII also prohibits acts of retaliation against job applicants, current employees, or former employees in response to allegations of discrimination.

Contact Our Business Attorneys

Sometimes a former employee will claim in their lawsuit both religious discrimination and national origin or racial discrimination occurred, as many cultures have a national religion or a practice that is not reflected in mainstream American culture.  But no matter what the former employee is claiming, Bellatrix PC has years of experience aggressively defending employers in a variety of discrimination cases, including religious discrimination in employment.

Our attorneys will meticulously analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the case, focusing on the most efficient and cost-effective resolutions for your business.  In addition, Bellatrix PC can also provide proactive advice on how to prevent potentially costly employment discrimination claims in the future.

To start discussing your business objectives in a private legal consultation, contact the employment law attorneys of Bellatrix PC right away at (800) 449-8992.

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