Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
Federal and state laws prohibit the harassment or discrimination of an employee based on their faith, religious beliefs or practices. A person’s religion and their religious beliefs should have no bearing on their ability to do a given job. Besides any type of discrimination in the workplace, whether it is age discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination or religious discrimination, these illegal actions open the door for stressful and illegal harassment and a hostile work environment.
If you feel you have been harassed or discriminated against at work due to your religious beliefs or practices, you need to contact a Washington employment law attorney right away. With over 40 years combined experience dealing with employment law, our attorneys will be able to accurately evaluate your claim, advise you of your options, help protect your rights and fight to get you the justice you deserve.
Religious Discrimination Under Washington Law
Though federal anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibit discrimination based on a person’s religion, the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) expanded protections to prohibit discrimination due to either “creed or religion.” Washington lawmakers have defined both terms in a broad manner to include observance, practice, and belief. The inclusion of “creed” protects employees whose belief systems may not be traditionally religious, but may still be closely held all the same.
Specifically, religion refers to a belief system or institution involving faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity. Creed, on the other hand, may include sincere and meaningful beliefs that occupy a place in the life of an individual that is parallel to that of God or another divine being in a traditional Western religion. These beliefs may include sincerely held ethical and moral beliefs regarding what is right and wrong, as well as beliefs that address ultimate ideas, such as purpose, destiny, life, and death.
The law sets out additional points, such as:
- An employee does not have to be member or regular attendee at a church or other organization to be considered to have a creed or religion.
- One employee from a particular religion may have different beliefs and/or practices than a different employee in the same religion, and the two employees may require different religious accommodations.
- An employee who did not used to be religious may become religious in the future.
- Each employee may choose the religion to which they belong, if any, and an employer may not require an employee to practice a certain religion as a condition of employment.
Making Accommodations for a Person’s Religious Practices
According to federal law employers must grant reasonable requests for employees to practice or express their religious beliefs in the workplace. This can include not scheduling an employee to work on their Sabbath day, allowing an employee to wear religious garments, giving time during an employee’s day for them to pray, etc. On the same note, should any employee need a little flexibility in their schedule to practice their religion outside of work, the employer would more than likely be required to comply.
With employers, there is some legal flexibility on how they are required to deal with requests for religious accommodations. First of all, an employer is not required to fulfill whatever accommodation an employee may suggest, especially if doing so would cause undue hardship to the business. Additionally, an employer can give an employee the day off for religious reason, but can do so without pay.
Both employment laws and religious discrimination laws are complex and are updated and amended from time to time, both at the state and federal levels and keeping up with all changes and current case law and verdicts is a vital part of our practice. Our attorneys at HKM Employment Attorneys are experts in representing and defending the rights of our clients from any type of discrimination in the workplace. With a former deputy prosecutor, former judges, clerks and other accomplished attorneys on board, our firm has the qualifications, skills and success record you want representing you.
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