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What Constitutes Employment Discrimination Based on Religion?

 Posted on April 08, 2019 in Workplace Discrimination

Wexford religious discrimination lawyerThe EEOC processed 20% more religious employment discrimination cases in 2017 than 2007, while total discrimination cases rose just 2% over the same 10-year period. As a result, employers have become more cautious in their handling of religion-based requests for accommodations and exceptions to long-standing workplace policies. Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act protects all aspects of religious observance, practice, and belief. 

Workplace Policies With Disparate Impact Based on Religion

Religious employment discrimination cases often involve workplace policies that have a disparate adverse impact on people of a particular religion. For example, suppose an employer requires workers to be able to work any day of the week. That policy would have a disparate impact on people whose religion prohibits working on a holy day. Similarly, a workplace policy that requires workers to be clean-shaven and to wear a uniform consisting of shorts and a short-sleeved shirt can have a disparate impact on men whose religion requires them to wear a beard and women whose religion requires modest dress.

Employer Accommodations Required for Religious Reasons

Suppose a retail chain requires staff to be available to work on weekends, their busiest time. The hiring manager, Bob, interviews a candidate named Sarah. During the interview, Bob explains the job requirements. Sarah asks that she not be scheduled to work from Friday afternoon through Saturday evening due to her religion. 

The manager, Bob, has the right to request additional information from Sarah to verify that her request is based on a sincerely held religious belief. If unsatisfied by an oral explanation, Bob may ask Sarah to provide literature about her religion or perhaps a letter from her religious leader or advisor verifying the requirements of her religion and the sincerity of her beliefs. 

If Sarah’s request would place an undue hardship on the business, Bob does not have to accommodate Sarah’s scheduling request. For example, if the location and position Sarah applied for has relatively few employees, and all employees are needed to cover the Friday-Saturday timeframe, Bob may explain that they cannot accommodate her request.

If Sarah’s request would not post an undue hardship, Bob may suggest the reasonable accommodation of Sarah working Sundays. If Sarah says no, she prefers not to work on Sundays, Bob may turn her down for the job. Bob is not legally required to give Sarah her preferred accommodation, only a reasonable accommodation.

Now, suppose Sarah also requests a religious accommodation regarding the uniform of shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Her religion requires her to wear a long shirt and a long-sleeved shirt, but such garments are available from the business’s supplier so she will mostly match the other employees. Sarah says she can do all required aspects of the job in this clothing, and there will be only a minimal additional cost to the employer for the alternative garments. Because the retail job for which Sarah is applying does not involve anything that cannot be safely done in the clothing Sarah proposes to wear, the manager should make this accommodation.

Contact a Pittsburgh Religious Job Discrimination Lawyer

An experienced Allegheny County employment discrimination lawyer can advise you regarding your concerns about religious discrimination by any prospective, current, or past employer. Call Colianni & Leonard LLC at 412-680-7877 for a free review of your case. 


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