America is a country respected throughout the world for allowing freedom of religious practice and expression. As a result, both state and federal laws are in place that specifically prohibit religious discrimination in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, provides federal protection against employment discrimination based on an employee’s religion, race, color, sex or national origin. This federal prohibition against religious discrimination applies to all employers who have 15 or more employees. Furthermore, here in California there is the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) which provides broader protection against employment discrimination than what is provided by Title VII. Under the FEHA, discrimination in the workplace is prohibited when based on an employee’s religious creed, race, color, national origin, physical or mental disability, marital status, sex, age or mental condition. The FEHA covers employers who have five or more full-time or part-time employees, in Los Angeles. It also extends its prohibition against harassment, a form of discrimination, to any employer with at least one employee.
Recognizing Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
Because of federal and California state law, California employers cannot treat employees and job applicants any less or more favorable because of that person’s religious affiliations, practices and beliefs. Thus, religious discrimination is not permissible in the following employment contexts, including:
- The hiring, offering and receipt of employment;
- The dispensing of employment benefits such as pension, paid vacations and other employment benefits;
- When providing work conditions such as office space and restroom facilities; and
- When terminating, promoting or otherwise changing the employee’s initial employment status.
Common types of religious discrimination that can occur in the workplace include:
- Prohibiting employees from engaging in religious expressions, such as wearing religious garbs, unless allowing such expression would create an undue hardship/burden for an employer;
- Not providing the necessary accommodations for an employee’s religious practices, such as regular prayer breaks when required by the employee’s religion;
- Refusing to hire or terminating an employee because of that employee’s religion; and
- Imposing stricter or more lax requirements for promotions, compensation and other work benefits because of an employee’s religion.
Religious Discrimination and Hostile Work Environment Claims in LA
If you feel that you have been a victim of religious discrimination in the workplace, you may be able to bring a hostile work environment claim against your employer. Hostile work environment claims focus on the fact that harassment, the most common type of discrimination, occurred because of your religious practices and/or affiliation. In order to bring a hostile work environment claim, the harassment must have been “severe or pervasive” enough that the targeted employee’s performance at work was affected. This determination focuses on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the workplace and the harassment that allegedly occurred. In Los Angeles, the employee has the burden of illustrating how the religious harassment would have interfered with the work performance of a reasonable employee who also would have seriously had his or her psychological well-being compromised because of the religious harassment. It is important to note that religious harassment such as isolated or occasional comments and actions will not meet the burden of creating a hostile work environment.
Los Angeles Employment Law Attorneys: Representation in Hostile Workplace Suits
Have you been a victim of discrimination at your workplace because of your religion? Contact us at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Los Angeles, California for all of the legal representation and assistance that you need with a workplace religious discrimination claim.