Religious Discrimination

El Segundo Lawyers Fighting for Worker Rights

Both federal and state laws prohibit religious discrimination in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is the federal law that forbids companies that have 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees or job applicants on the basis of their religious beliefs, as well as other characteristics like race or gender. However, California law has stronger protections for workers than does federal law, so in some cases, the outcome may be different if a remedy is pursued in state court. If you are a victim of religious discrimination in your workplace, the El Segundo religious discrimination lawyers at the Calderone Law Firm may be able to help you recover damages.

California Claims Based on Religious Discrimination

The California Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA) forbids employers from engaging in religious discrimination when hiring, firing, promoting, demoting, providing training, or otherwise making employment decisions about job applicants and employees. Religions and religious creeds are considered a protected characteristic, and they include all aspects of religious beliefs and practices. The religion need not be one of the major religions like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or Buddhism to afford protection. Any belief system is protected as a religious or religious creed as long as the worker sincerely holds those beliefs.

Under FEHA, employers need to permit reasonable accommodations for a job applicant or employee's religious practices, except when giving an accommodation would create an undue hardship. A reasonable accommodation might involve making reassignments, modifying work practices, restructuring the job, or permitting a worker to take time off for a religious observance. For example, if you are Jewish and need to take Rosh Hashanah or another High Holiday off, your employer is supposed to reasonably accommodate a schedule change. If this does not happen, a religious discrimination attorney in the El Segundo area can help you bring a claim.

The California Workplace Religious Freedom Act amended FEHA to provide even stronger protections. Under the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a religious belief or observance expressly includes religious dress and grooming practices. In other words, there is no gray area with regard to allowing a hijab, turban, or yarmulke to be worn in the workplace. Other religious clothing or grooming is also included, such as jewelry, artifacts, or facial or body hair that is part of observing a religion or religious creed. For example, if you are Wiccan and wear a piece of jewelry during the workday as part of your religious practices, your employer is supposed to respect that.

This law also altered the rules with regard to reasonable accommodations. It requires employers to grant employees an accommodation for religious practices. This accommodation cannot require the employee to be segregated from the general public or customers. For example, if you work in a customer-facing position, the employer cannot make you work in the back because you have converted to Islam and now wear a hijab. An El Segundo religious discrimination attorney can help workers hold employers accountable for these wrongful practices.

An employer has a very high burden to show that there is an undue hardship that warrants denying a religious accommodation under California law. In a federal case, employers can show an undue burden by proving that providing an accommodation would result in a relatively modest burden on the employer. However, in California, the provision of a reasonable accommodation must require significant expense or difficulty for an employer to avoid providing it. Factors include how much the requested accommodation costs, what the accommodation is, the financial capability of the employer, the type of operations, how many people are employed at the work facility, the impact of the accommodation, and whether the facility is separate from other facilities of the employer.

An employer can usually meet this burden by showing a legitimate safety concern. However, in general, there is a high degree of protection for a worker who needs a religious accommodation.

Consult a Skilled Religious Discrimination Lawyer in El Segundo or Surrounding Cities

Religious discrimination claims are often brought under California law, including in situations in which federal law may not apply. If you need to recover damages or obtain other relief for discrimination on the job, the experienced attorneys at the Calderone Law Firm are available to provide counsel and representation. We assist people in Torrance, El Segundo, and Los Angeles, as well as other cities throughout Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange Counties. Call us at (424) 348-8290 or contact us through our online form.