Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination in the workplace is on the rise. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that charges of religious-based discrimination increased nearly 40% in the last 10 years. In Minnesota, employees are protected from religious discrimination and hostile treatment under state and federal law. Both the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) prohibit employers from treating workers or job applicants unfavorably or taking adverse employment actions against them on the basis of their religion.

What is religious discrimination?

Religious discrimination is treating an employee differently because of his or her religion, religious beliefs or practices, or failing to consider a request for religious-based accommodations. Discrimination also includes harassment due to religious beliefs, particularly when the behavior or comments are so frequent or severe that they create a hostile work environment or result in adverse employment action.

Religious discrimination can involve many aspects of employment, such as recruitment, promotion, work assignments, training and discipline. Adverse employment actions may include refusing to hire, failing to promote, terminating or otherwise discriminating against someone because of his or her religious beliefs. “Religion” under Title VII includes “all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.” Religion includes not only organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, but also sincerely held religious beliefs that may be newer and subscribed to by a smaller number of people.

Is my employer required to accommodate my religious beliefs and practices?

Yes. An employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s request for a religious accommodation, so long as it does not provide an undue hardship on the employer. An accommodation is a request for an adjustment or change to a workplace rule that otherwise infringes upon the employee’s ability to practice his or her religion. However, the accommodation request must be reasonable and be of minimal burden or cost to the employer.

Common religious accommodations in the workplace include:

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Voluntary substitutes or swaps of shifts and assignments
  • Lateral transfers and/or changes of job assignment
  • Modification of a workplace practice, policy or procedure

How do I request a religious accommodation?

To begin the accommodation process, an employee must make the employer aware of the need for accommodation and indicate that it is being requested due to a conflict between religion and work. While no magic words are required, an employee must provide enough information to make the employer aware of the conflict and that it is due to the employee’s religious practice or belief. After being made aware of the religious accommodation request, an employer is allowed to inquire and obtain additional information to determine whether the employer can accommodate the employee and what accommodations would be effective.

Contact Our Minnesota Employment Lawyers
Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees throughout Minnesota. If you are experiencing discrimination, harassment or retaliation from your employer due to your religion or a request for a religious accommodation, our employment attorneys want to hear from you. Contact us at 612-252-3570 or click here for a free case evaluation.