5 Forms of Religious Discrimination at Work & What to Do

Understanding Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination occurs when employees are treated unfavorably because of their religious beliefs or practices. It’s more than just overt prejudice; it’s the subtle biases, the whispered comments, the overlooked promotions, and the stifling of your right to express and practice your faith. The consequences of such discrimination can be far-reaching, impacting your emotional well-being, professional growth, and overall job satisfaction.

Five Forms of Religious Discrimination at Work

1. Unequal Treatment Based on Religion

Unequal treatment rooted in religious beliefs can manifest in many ways. For example, an employee might be overlooked for a promotion or face a disparity in wages due to their religious practices or affiliations. Sometimes, this discrimination is not overt but rather subtle. It may be in the form of microaggressions, exclusion from team-building activities, or being assigned less desirable shifts or job responsibilities. It’s essential to recognize these patterns as they not only breach professional ethics but also damage workplace cohesion and harmony.

2. Failure to Accommodate Religious Practices

The freedom to practice one’s faith is a fundamental human right. In a workplace setting, this translates to certain reasonable accommodations. An employer should acknowledge an employee’s request for time off to observe a religious holiday or adjust work schedules to accommodate daily prayer rituals. Moreover, denying an employee’s right to wear religious attire, like a hijab, crucifix, turban, or kippah, also falls under this category. The keyword here is “reasonable.” An employer is obligated to accommodate unless it would result in undue hardship on the operation of the business.

3. Harassment Based on Religious Belief

Harassment is not just limited to overt derogatory remarks. It encompasses a range of behaviors that create a hostile work environment for an individual due to their religious beliefs. This might include consistent mocking, jokes about a particular faith, or even passive-aggressive behavior like leaving out inflammatory articles or pictures. The emotional toll of such an environment can be profound, leading to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and even health issues for the affected employee.

4. Retaliation for Reporting Religious Discrimination

An employee might muster the courage to report religious discrimination, only to find themselves further victimized. Workplace retaliation can be in various forms: a sudden demotion, reduced work hours, exclusion from essential meetings or projects, or even termination. It’s vital to emphasize that retaliation not only deepens the discriminatory wound but also silences other potential voices, perpetuating a toxic workplace culture.

5. Discriminatory Company Policies

Sometimes, religious discrimination is embedded in a company’s policies. A dress code that doesn’t allow religious headwear, a mandatory team event on a religious holiday, or even a no-leave policy during peak religious observances can all be indicative of such institutional discrimination. These policies, while they might appear neutral, can inadvertently target specific religious groups, making it challenging for them to fully engage and thrive in their roles.

Legal Protections in California

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) stands as a robust shield against religious discrimination. As an employee in this state, it’s heartening to know that your employer is bound by the law to respect and accommodate your religious beliefs and practices.


What to Do if You Face Religious Discrimination

  • Document the Incident: The importance of having a detailed record cannot be stressed enough. Whether it’s a derogatory comment or a denied leave request, jot down the date, time, and nature of the incident.
  • Speak with HR or Management: Before escalating matters, it’s often beneficial to address concerns internally. Engage with your HR department or management and express your grievances.
  • Know Your Rights: Equip yourself with knowledge. Familiarize yourself with California’s laws and your rights under FEHA.
  • Seek Legal Counsel: Navigating legal corridors can be daunting. This is where we step in. At Moore Ruddell, we offer you our experience, and empathetic counsel to ensure you’re not alone in this fight.

We’re Here to Help

Religious discrimination is an affront to the core values of inclusivity and respect that define California’s spirit. Stand against it. Recognize it. Report it. And remember, the Los Angeles discrimination lawyers at Moore Ruddell are always here, defending your cause, ensuring that your voice, and your rights, remain inviolable. Contact our office for a free consultation.

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