Employers may not be familiar with their obligations concerning an employee’s religion or religious practices. Under federal anti-discrimination laws, religion does not mean only mainstream or organized religions. Rather, an employee need only have a religious belief, common or uncommon in the community, that is sincerely held.
There are essentially two kinds of religious discrimination recognized by federal law.
(1) Failure to make a reasonable accommodation:
Once an employee notifies his or her employer that a bona fide religious belief conflicts with a job requirement, the employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the employee. An employer’s failure to enter into an interactive process with the employee and/or failure to reasonably accommodate an employee may violate federal or state law. Most common accommodations sought by employees are certain days off or time off during the day (often for prayer breaks), not to have to shave, and to be permitted to wear religious garments.
(2) Religious harassment/disparate treatment:
It is generally illegal for employers and/or coworkers to discriminate, harass, or in any way alter the terms and conditions of an employee’s employment (including termination) because of an employee’s religious beliefs. Employees also cannot be forced to participate in religious activities.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on religion or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.