According to the EEOC, the law
still requires employers to offer fair accommodations to workers with religious practices that differ from the standard business operations. No changes to the law have been reported to date.
Religious Faith Accommodations: The Cut-And-Dried Law
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religion-based discrimination. Those guidelines bar employers from engaging in the following practices:
- Firing or laying off workers because of their religion
- Failing to hire and promote candidates because of scheduling restrictions for religious observance (i.e., Sabbath day or Sunday worship)
- Paying workers unequally because of their faith
- Harassing workers or allowing such faith-based harassment in the workplace
- Segregating by placing only certain workers in unfavorable job assignments
- “Punishing” workers because they have religious faith scheduling restrictions (retaliation)
- Forcing workers to participate in other people’s “religious practices,” such as humiliation rituals
An employer’s failure to adhere to the law on those matters could have devastating effects. The penalties and repercussions can include steep fines, high-cost litigation, and nationwide or worldwide recognition for such discriminatory practices. Injured employees may be eligible for monetary settlements or job reinstatement as well.
Examples of Recent Religious Faith Discrimination Cases
- A trucker received a $53,000 settlement from a South Carolina business that terminated him for not working on a Saturday because of his “Hebrew Pentecostal” faith.
- A logistics company settled a $4.9 million lawsuit to compensate workers who had been refused positions based on their religious practices.
- A healthcare company recently paid $75,000 to a worker whose religious beliefs required her to dress modestly.
Many similar cases exist, as do open complaints about such discrimination. The EEOC reported that more than 2,400 new discrimination cases were filed in 2020, and almost 2,600 mature cases were resolved. Settlement amounts totaled about $6.1 million for cases that closed with monetary awards.
Religious Faith Clauses and Loopholes
Some clauses and loopholes exist in these matters. These are some of the most prevalent challenges:
Undue Hardship on the Business
The law allows employers to refuse accommodations if a worker’s request causes the business a hardship. The hardship can relate to a profit loss, worker shortage, or a request that puts the company at risk for health and safety violations. Thus, the employer can use the “hardship” angle to refute a complaint.
The Employee or Applicant’s Burden of Proof
Unfortunately, the burden of proof lies solely with the employee. Culprit-witnesses and well-entertained spectators aren’t likely to testify on the victim’s behalf. Furthermore, the level of seriousness in harassment and discrimination cases is subjective, and people still disregard, invalidate, and minimize emotional abuse.
All Religions Are Included
The laws don’t solely protect people of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, or traditional Hebrew religious faith examples from practicing at work. They also protect New-Age religions, Atheism, and Satanism. Let that marinate for a sec and think about the workplace dynamics in places where the leadership and higher-ups belong to one of those “religious” groups, and only a few workers belong to another. Whose practices are more likely to be protected?
Do Most Workplaces Provide Religious Accommodations?
Most workplaces still provide reasonable religious faith accommodations to workers, such as scheduling modifications, dress code adjustments, time off, and other considerations. Some huge-name employers even go out of their way to provide their workers with dedicated prayer rooms and paid breaks to communicate with their higher power privately.
That said, some establishments use under-the-radar discrimination practices to purge religious workers via voluntary resignation. Making the workplace intolerable for an employee by allowing and masking harassment is an example of such a practice. Stating “intangible” reasons for numerous promotion rejections is another. Changing a worker’s first workday or orientation date to an unavailable day is yet another.
A religious employee’s experience depends on the employer, the spiritual ratio, and the condition of the business as a whole. Workers can make better employment decisions by checking each company’s culture, mission statement, employee reviews, and the number of settled religious discrimination cases.
The EEOC is available to assist employees and candidates with religious faith discrimination issues. Seasoned employment lawyers are delighted to help as well. At the very least, a concerned worker can discuss a religious faith matter during a consultation.