Employment Law

Personal Injury

Workplace religious discrimination is a growing problem

Religious discrimination by employers is prohibited under both the Missouri Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. As the United States becomes an increasingly diverse nation, the problem of religious discrimination in the workplace is becoming more of a problem. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, a survey has revealed that more than one-third of U.S. workers report either observing or being personally subjected to religious bias at work.

While Christianity remains the dominant U.S. religion, immigration trends are resulting in an increasing number of minority faiths. Many immigrants today are Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Buddhists. One human resource expert was quoted in the SHRM article as saying that the need for employers to become more aware of differing needs, expectations and traditions of various faith groups is now more important than ever.

The Insight into Diversity magazine has noted that many employers make the mistake of presuming that, as long as religion is not taken into consideration in the employment relationship, employers are in full compliance with the law. This is incorrect. Employers are under an obligation to take reasonable steps to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and practices that are sincerely held. Moreover, employers must take steps to prevent workplace religious harassment which results in a hostile work environment.

Religious accommodation requests often implicate dress, items of adornment and even grooming. Examples of clothing or adornment include the Christian cross, a Muslim headscarf and a Sikh turban. An example of religious grooming might be a religion that requires adherents to wear their hair in a certain style or length. Employers are under an affirmative legal obligation to make a reasonable accommodation with regard to dress and grooming practices which have religious implications.

Employers do not have to accommodate a worker’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so ends up causing undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation can be denied if it requires more than ordinary administrative costs, diminishes workplace efficiency, infringes on other employees rights or if it impairs workplace safety. Employers can also deny a request for a religious accommodation if it results in increasing other workers share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work tasks.

Reasonable accommodation

According to the EEOC, employees who wish to seek a reasonable accommodation for their religious beliefs and practices should do the following:

· Advise their supervisors or the human resources department of the nature of the conflict between their religious needs and work rules and policies

· Provide sufficient information to enable the employer to understand what accommodation is needed and why it is necessitated by a religious practice or belief

· Cease proselytizing with respect to any coworker who indicates that the proselytization is unwelcome.

The Anti-Defamation League adds that an employee should be clear and unambiguous when explaining why they are in need of an accommodation.

For those being harassed by coworkers due to their religious beliefs, the EEOC suggests that they should inform the individual engaging in the harassment that they want it to stop immediately. If the harassment does not cease, employees should report it to their supervisor or other person as specified in a employment manual or anti-harassment policy.


Seek legal help

If you feel that you are being discriminated against in the workplace due to your religious beliefs, you should contact a Missouri attorney experienced in handling employment discrimination cases as soon as possible.