Religious discrimination in the workplace can occur in several forms, including differential treatment, harassment and failure to accommodate. Our employment lawyers will help you understand your religious rights and fight against unlawful workplace discrimination, retaliation and harassment.
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.
Employees have made disparaging comments about my religious beliefs – is this legal?
It is illegal to harass an individual because of his or her religious beliefs. Teasing, an offhand comment or an isolated incident on its own may not necessarily be illegal; however, your situation may be considered illegal harassment if the harassment becomes so severe or frequent that it creates a hostile work environment or if it results in demotion or termination. The harasser could be a supervisor, a co-worker, or even a client or customer.
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
- Religious garb and grooming
- Adhering to dietary rules
- Time or place to pray/li>
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.
How do I know if I’m being retaliated against?
Title VII and the MHRA prohibit employers from punishing employees for opposing discriminatory practices and harassment. This is called retaliation, and retaliation can take many forms, including: demotions, reduction in wages, and termination. An employee can oppose discriminatory practices, such as discrimination based on religion, failure to accommodate and harassment, by making a verbal or written communication about the discrimination, filing a charge with the EEOC or the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, being a witness to an investigation about discriminatory practices and other forms of opposition.
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 for a free case evaluation.