Atlanta Religious Discrimination Lawyer
One of the most important rights in America is the right to worship freely in the way your conscience dictates. It is a right enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and, in the workplace, it is also protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees because of their religion, and also from failing or refusing to provide religious accommodations for employees. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your religion or denied an accommodation to which you are entitled, the best path forward is with one of the experienced Atlanta employment discrimination attorneys at Hall & Lampros, LLP on your side. You can call (404) 876-8100 or submit a confidential inquiry for a free, no obligation consultation.
The Broad Protection for Religion under Title VII
Title VII forbids employers from discriminating against employees based on their religion, and this protection is very broad. Under the statute, “religion” means “all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief,” not just practices or beliefs that are required or forbidden by an organized religion. And “religion” includes:
[N]ot only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others.”
EEOC Compliance Manual § 12–I(A)(1). A belief might be “religious” even if it not about God or tied to a specific religious denomination, but generally “religious” in the individual’s sense, usually having to do with fundamental questions of life, death, and meaning.
If a person is discriminated against in the terms and conditions of her employment of her sincere religious belief, including in hiring, promotion, discipline, or wrongful discharge, the employer will be liable for religious discrimination in violation of Title VII.
The religious discrimination provision is the only part of Title VII that requires reasonable accommodation, much the same way as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires for employees with disabilities. Title VII requires that, where an employee’s bona fide religious practice or observance conflicts with a workplace rule, the employer must accommodate the employee by adjusting or modifying the rule to allow the employee to adhere to their religious practice or observance. The only exception is when accommodating the employee would impose an undue hardship, or more than a minimal cost, on the employer.
Examples of religious accommodations in the workplace include:
- Permitting a police officer who is a Seventh Day Adventist, a religion which celebrates a holy day of rest with no work from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, to switch shifts with co-workers;
- Allowing a Muslim salesman the use of a small room in the back of a corporate office to pray five times a day, a practice of the Islamic faith;
- Declining to require an Atheist employee to attend a morning meeting where a non-denominational prayer is offered; or
- Granting a Jewish grocery worker who wears a yarmulke or skullcap an exemption from the usual dress code policy forbidding the wearing of hats at work.
Employers may refuse religious accommodations if they would cause an undue hardship, which has been interpreted to mean more than a minimal cost. Examples of this might be if a requested religious accommodation left a company short staffed, exposed employees to risk of injury, or cost a significant amount of money.
Religious Harassment and Hostile Work Environments
Just as Title VII prohibits sexually hostile work environments and racially hostile work environments, it also prohibits hostile work environments created through harassment based on religion. You may have a claim for religious harassment if:
- You were subjected to unwanted or unwelcome harassment;
- The harassment was based on your religion;
- The harassment was sufficiently serious to create a hostile work environment;
- There is a legal basis for holding the employer liable for the religious harassment.
The conduct you identify as religious harassment must be sufficiently serious, or “severe or pervasive,” to effectively change the terms of your employment. Several factors are relevant to this determination, including:
- The frequency of the harassment;
- The severity of the harassment;
- Whether the harassment was humiliating, physically threatening, or both; and
- Whether the harassment unreasonably interfered with your ability to do your job.
Finally, suffering religious harassment on the job is not enough to prevail on your claim. You must also be able to demonstrate that your employer bears legal responsibility, such as vicarious liability. For example, if the person harassing you was another employee and you did not report the harassment, the employer could avoid liability. But if you reported the harassment and the employer failed to take appropriate corrective action, it would be liable for the harassment.
Consult with an Experienced Atlanta Religion Law Attorney Today
If you are the victim of workplace discrimination based on your religious beliefs, are denied a religious accommodation, or harassed based on your religion, the losses and emotional harm you suffer can be immense. But the employment discrimination attorneys at Hall & Lampros have the knowledge, legal insight, and compassion to help. Contact us today at 404-876-8100 or submit a confidential inquiry online for a free, no obligation consultation about your rights.