What is Religious Discrimination?
Religious discrimination in the workplace involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs and/or treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group. California and federal law protects anyone who has sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Additionally, the law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and fringe benefits.
Most employers are aware that they cannot discriminate against employees and applicants based on their religion. Where many employers are not so clear is their requirement to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee’s or applicant’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the business’s operations. Common religious accommodations in the workplace include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.
Workplace Policies that Could Discriminate
An employer must also examine their dress code policies to ensure that they are not infringing on employer’s religious beliefs. For example, if your business has a ‘no facial hair’ policy’ and you request that a job applicant who is a member of the Sikh faith shave his beard and refuse to hire him if he does not, you could have a potential claim for religious discrimination on your hands.
Another policy to examine relates to holy days, such as the Sabbath. If a key tenet of your employee’s faith is to observe Sabbath by refraining from secular work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, as the employer, you must make reasonable accommodations for the person’s religious practices. Discuss how this might look with an experienced Orange County employment lawyer.
How Do I Know If My Workplace Policy Discriminates Against a Certain Religion?
If you are interested in accommodating all employees and avoiding claims of religious discrimination, a “one size fits all” policy for all employees may not be the best solution for your business. Speak to your legal counsel about whether your policies and practices provide a method for addressing the religious practices of your employees.
For more information on religious discrimination, contact the Orange County employment attorneys at Newport Trial Group today.