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Addressing religious discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination in the workplace is a difficult issue for employees and employers to deal with. Whether a worker is experiencing discrimination from a co-worker or a supervisor, it is important that individuals being mistreated or discriminated against have rights and resources to put a stop to this. Employees in Minnesota and other states across the nation may experience or witness different forms of discrimination, and it is important to understand what steps could be taken in these situations.

As last week's blog pointed out, religious discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue affecting the religious freedom of individuals. Discrimination based on religion occurs when an employee's ability to practice his or her religion is under attack.

According to Title VII, discrimination based on an individual's religious beliefs is prohibited. Moreover, it provides that employers must afford reasonable accommodations for the religions of employees so long as it does not cause any undue hardship in the workplace.

In addition, due to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the obligations regarding reasonable accommodations have been further clarified such as those allowing for religious garments, such as a headscarf, to be worn in the workplace.

In a recent case, an employer had a Look Policy for the company. A woman who wore a headscarf at an interview was not hired because wearing head coverings of any kind was prohibited by the Look Policy. However, it was determined that the employer did not consider accommodations for religion, and thus, violated Title VII.

It is important that both employees and employers understand what reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs in the work environment means. This could help establish if these terms are met and whether discrimination is occurring. If discrimination based on religion is occurring, the employee might be able to file an action. This would not only stop the acts, but also punish the wrongdoer and provide the employee with compensation for the damages suffered.

Source: nwitimes.com, "Employers must afford reasonable accommodations regarding religious beliefs," James Jorgensen, June 20, 2015

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