On-the-job religious discrimination isn’t ‘the way things are done here’

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2017 | Employment Discrimination |

In Minnesota workplaces, an illegal but all too common problem is employees being forced to choose between religious faithfulness and keeping their jobs.

For example, have you ever found yourself struggling to find time for prayer at the right times of the day because your work schedule isn’t giving you time to do so? Have you ever had to choose between wearing what your culture expects and what your supervisor prefers?

It is illegal for employers to make employees choose between work and their religious obligations.

If you’ve been in a situation where you had to make that kind of unfair choice, don’t assume it’s just the way things are done or that you have no say. The laws of the land and even the Constitution itself protect your right to practice your faith.

What Religious Protections Do Workers in Minnesota Have?

Here in the Twin Cities, we are fortunate to be home to a growing diversity of ethnic, religious and cultural communities. Unfortunately, some employers have not updated the way they operate to ensure that they are in compliance with state and federal laws designed to protect these diverse populations. While this can have an impact on anyone in the workplace, it has been especially problematic for those in Somali communities and others who practice Islam.

Under Minnesota law and the U.S. Constitution, employers cannot:

  • Deny time for you to pray
  • Prevent you from wearing appropriate headwear
  • Prevent you from interacting with customers because of your religion
  • Create an environment where jokes or harassment is accepted
  • Fire or fail to promote employees because of their religion

Our community succeeds because it is built on the idea that people from all cultures, religions and backgrounds can work in harmony toward our shared collective goals and that we are strengthened as a result. In fact, the founding ideas baked into the laws that govern us include clear guidelines about how employers and businesses are expected to treat the diverse cultures and religions of their employees. Our goal is simply to hold employers accountable to those laws.

Employers Cannot Fire You for Reporting Discrimination

In our office, we often meet people who hesitate to fight discrimination because they don’t want to be seen as causing trouble or risk retaliation. Whether you believe you may be facing religious discrimination at work or you’ve seen it happen to a colleague or a family member, don’t sit silently and let it pass because you are worried that by acting, you will be punished or seen as a troublemaker.

A business that is already potentially in trouble for violating anti-discrimination laws knows it will only put itself in a much worse position by seeking to punish employees who stand up for their rights. In many cases, the violation is unintentional and one that the business will want to correct to stay on the right side of the law.

Our experience is that most employers aren’t actively seeking to exploit their workers in violation of the law – though, sadly, that’s not always the case – and these businesses want to do what is right. Reporting religious discrimination can help put them on the path to understanding the law and complying with the religious protections in both Minnesota and United States law.