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Discrimination on Religious Grounds

Religion is one of the protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, along with race/color, sex/gender, and national origin. This means that with very rare exceptions, discrimination against a person based on religion, real or perceived, is unlawful. An employer who is found to have engaged in discrimination on religious grounds may wind up civilly liable to the employee for what they have been through. That said, religious discrimination can be difficult to spot. Due to the time, religion is not a visible characteristic like race or gender.

An experienced attorney may be helpful in determining whether you have a case of discrimination on religious grounds. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Specific Definition, Contextual Application

The definition of religious discrimination is treating someone differently on the basis of their sincerely held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs. This definition does include atheists and agnostics, who have the right to be free from religion, just as religious people have the right to the free exercise of their religion in the appropriate context. It also includes people who are perceived to hold these beliefs, or people who are married to those who hold such beliefs.

As in cases involving disability, the law requires employers to ‘reasonably accommodate’ employees’ religious beliefs, as long as it would not impose more than a “minimal” hardship on the employer – though this is a much looser standard than the one employed under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). What constitutes a ‘reasonable’ accommodation will usually be context dependent – for example, a company that employs 10 people would likely not permit a Jewish employee to have Friday evenings off to attend Shabbos. However, a company that employs 150 people might be able to accommodate that request.

“Sincerely Held” Beliefs Are Protected

There are several ways that discrimination on religious grounds can be felt by an employee. From negative employment actions like pay cuts or demotions to harassment and a hostile work environment based on religion. While simple teasing and jokes do not rise to the level of a truly hostile work environment, they can be part of a pattern of harassment that makes it too difficult for a worker to do their job – particularly if a superior is part of the behavior.

One thing that keeps some employees from filing a charge with the relevant authorities or filing suit in court is a belief that their faith is too ‘niche,’ or may be seen as too unorthodox to merit protection. It is crucial to know that everyone has the right to freely practice their religion, not only members of the majority. Federal law states explicitly that religious beliefs might be seen as “new, uncommon, [informal] … or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others” are included in protections as long as they are sincerely held. You have the right to seek redress for what you have been through.

Get Legal Help Today

Religion is a deeply personal thing for many people, and it can be particularly demoralizing when someone decides to treat you differently because of that characteristic. If you suspect that you have been the victim of discrimination on religious grounds, contacting a South Carolina employment discrimination attorney is a good first step toward addressing the issue. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and the firm of Hitchcock & Potts have years of experience in these matters. We are pleased to try and assist you. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

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