Select Page

The Foundation of Religious Freedom in the United States

In the United States, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. One of its fundamental principles is the protection of religious freedom. This means every individual has the right to follow the religion of their choice or to not follow any religion at all. Despite this, the topic of religion can be delicate, and unfortunately, discrimination based on religious beliefs occurs in various settings, including schools and workplaces.

Religious Discrimination in the Workplace: What It Looks Like

Federal labor laws in the United States categorically state that religious discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Victims of such discrimination might be entitled to compensation through legal action against their employers. Let’s explore some examples of how religious discrimination can manifest in professional environments.

Example 1: Unfair Hiring Practices

A common way religious discrimination surfaces is during the hiring process. It is illegal for an employer to reject a job candidate based on their religious beliefs. For instance, if an employer decides not to hire someone because they don’t share the same religious views, this is a clear case of discrimination.

There are instances where discrimination happens even before the interview stage. If an employer decides against hiring someone because their name suggests a certain religious affiliation, this too is discriminatory. During the hiring process, questions about one’s religion, religious practices, or availability for work during religious holidays are off-limits. If faced with such questions, it’s possible you’re encountering religious discrimination.

Example 2: Failure To Provide Reasonable Accommodations

Employers are required to make adjustments or accommodations in the workplace to allow employees to practice their religion. This could mean flexible work schedules, changes in job duties, or time off for religious holidays. Employees might also be exempt from certain dress codes if they conflict with religious practices.

However, an employer is not obliged to make these accommodations if they would result in undue hardship to the business. This includes significant financial burdens or safety risks. For example, allowing a Jewish employee to take a day off for a religious holiday is usually seen as reasonable. Conversely, permitting a Pentecostal employee to wear a skirt instead of safety gear in a hazardous environment could be denied due to safety concerns.

Example 3: Unfair Treatment, Termination, or Promotion Practices

It’s unlawful for employers to alter an employee’s job responsibilities, apply different work standards, or terminate employment based on religious beliefs. Similarly, requests for reasonable religious accommodations cannot be a reason for dismissal.

Consider a Muslim employee who wears a headscarf in accordance with her beliefs. If her employer reassigns her to a less visible role because of her headscarf, this constitutes religious discrimination. Moreover, decisions about promotions or terminations cannot be based on an employee’s religion. For instance, if a manager promotes an employee of the same religion over a more qualified candidate of a different religion, this is a clear case of discrimination.

In Summary

Religious discrimination is a serious issue that undermines the foundational values of freedom and equality. Recognizing these discriminatory practices is the first step towards creating a more inclusive and respectful society. Whether in school or the workplace, it’s important to understand your rights and the obligations of those in positions of authority. Remember, discrimination in any form is not only wrong; it’s illegal.

J. Horowitz
J. Horowitz

J. Horowitz leverages over two decades of experience as a seasoned employment law attorney in Arizona to offer insightful freelance writing on the same subject. After a successful career advocating for fairness and justice in the workplace, J. now dedicates his expertise to writing comprehensive articles, blog posts, and thought leadership pieces that illuminate the complexities of employment law.