Freedom of religion is one of the founding principles of our democracy. While the Constitution prohibits the government from interfering with the free exercise of religion, laws such as the Civil Rights Act prevent private enterprises from discriminating against employees and job applicants on the basis of religious preference or affiliation. Nevertheless, on-the-job religious discrimination, both direct and indirect, is still alive and well in the United States. Many employers are ignorant of the statutory prohibitions against these types of practices. Others simply do not care and callously ignore their legal obligations. In either case, when employers refuse to respect the religious preferences of their employees, our attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP are ready to defend religious freedom and fight religious discrimination in the workplace on behalf of New York workers.What is religious discrimination?
Religious discrimination in the workplace can take on a variety of forms, including harassment, refusal to hire and discrimination in terms and conditions of employment. Unlike some other discrimination laws, however, the prohibitions against religious discrimination contained in the Civil Rights Act and similar N.Y. and NYC legislation also place an affirmative duty upon employers to make reasonable accommodations to the religious practices of their employees, such as:
- Making exceptions to the company’s dress code and grooming requirements that prohibit religious dress and grooming, such as a hijab, beard, skullcap or turban
- Allowing employees to trade shifts in order to have off on holy days
- Allowing reasonable breaks for prayer and other religious requirements
- Permitting Sabbath observance
These accommodations, however, have limits and cannot impose an undue hardship upon the employer. To the extent that a religious practice presents a legitimate safety hazard or prevents the employee from performing essential job functions, accommodation may not be required. However, this line can be quite nuanced. A New York religious discrimination lawyer is in the best position to tell you whether it has been crossed.Religious harassment and direct discrimination
Unfortunately, religious prejudices run deep and religious harassment and outright discrimination have become one of the most common types of prohibited discrimination in the United States. Devout Muslims especially have become targets of unabashed workplace discrimination. While smaller employers may slip around the coverage of the federal Civil Rights Act, in New York every employer with four or more employees is subject to the state Human Rights Law. Therefore, only the smallest employers are exempt from the requirements of state and local civil rights laws governing religious harassment.
Under these statutes, employers are prohibited from engaging in numerous types of direct discrimination or allowing them to take place in their workplace, for example:
- Refusing to hire based on an applicant's religion
- Disparaging an employee's religion
- Repeatedly attempting to convert an employee to their own religion
- Offering inferior terms and conditions of employment based on religion
- Preventing an employee from having contact with customers because he or she wears religious garb
Our legal system does not tolerate discrimination against workers based on their faith or observance. If you have been singled out in the workplace because of your religious preference or discouraged from practicing your faith in the workplace, you may have legal options. Our New York City religious discrimination lawyers at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP can listen to your story and advise you whether what you have experienced qualifies as discrimination under the law. We are available by phone at (212) 688-5640. We can also be reached online. Se habla espanol.