Just like ethnic, sexual, racial and disability-based discrimination can occur in a workplace, employees can and sometimes do experience religious discrimination. This is the unfair treatment of any individual because of his or her actual or perceived religion or religious practices. Religious discrimination can be intertwined with ethnic discrimination, though it can occur without any instance of ethnic discrimination. This, and all other forms of discrimination, is defined as any action meant to embarrass, alienate, or disadvantage an employee because of one of his or her immutable traits. RCW 49.60.030 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 both forbid discrimination against certain protected classes in the workplace.
When religious or any other type of discrimination becomes so severe that an employee or group of employees cannot effectively perform their jobs, the workplace may be what’s considered a hostile work environment. There is no legal definition of a hostile work environment. It is simply a term used to note the type of environment where discrimination occurs to the point of being mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting for an employee or group of employees. Whether or not a workplace may be deemed hostile is determined by the Human Resources professional or court hearing a case. If a reasonable person can look at the behaviors that have occurred within a workplace and objectively say that they are hostile, then the workplace may be deemed a hostile work environment.
Examples of Religious Discrimination
There are many ways a company can exercise religious discrimination against its employees. The following are hypothetical examples of what may be considered to be a hostile work environment.
- Refusing to allow a Muslim employee to wear her head covering to work;
- Promoting only Christian employees to managerial positions despite other employees’ similar qualifications; and
- Compensating a Jewish employee with fewer vacation days or a lower salary than non-Jewish employees who hold the same position.
There are certain instances where an employer must provide reasonable accommodation to employees due to their religious practices. From the examples above, the Muslim employee may request that her uniform requirement be altered to allow her to wear a head covering. Reasonable accommodations are alterations made to the work schedule or rules that allow employees to practice their religion and perform their job duties efficiently without sacrificing either. Another example of reasonable accommodation for religious observances includes allowing a Catholic employee to leave work early on Good Friday to make it to Mass. Refusing to provide these accommodations, unless the company can prove that doing so would cause it an undue burden, is a form of religious discrimination.
Hostile Work Environment Attorneys Can Help
Don’t let your employer continue to treat you unfairly because of your religion. You have the right to a hostility-free workplace and if that right is infringed upon, you have the right to file a lawsuit and have it rectified. Our team of experienced attorneys at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help. Call our firm at 206-838-2504 to discuss your case with a knowledgeable attorney who can help you work toward a positive solution for your case.
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