John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
612-217-4988 877-390-4527

Understand religious discrimination in the workplace

When you're living in America, the expectation is that you can practice any religion freely and be free from persecution as a result of the religion you choose. This also applies to the workplace.

Religious discrimination is fairly easy to understand: It means discriminating against a person based on their religious beliefs. That can mean treating both an employee or an applicant unfairly based on their religious preferences.

This law protects people of all religions, not just those who practice traditional religions. Some of the religions that are protected include:

  • Judaism
  • Hinduism
  • Islam
  • Christianity
  • Buddhism

Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone associated with a person of a different religion poorly. For example, the husband or wife of a Muslim or a friend of a Jewish person should not be treated differently as a result of that association.

Can you be separated from other employees based on your religion?

No, that would be segregation, and that's also illegal in the United States. Title VII distinctly prohibits job or workplace discrimination with segregation due to religion or religious practices. This includes assigning employees to non-consumer-facing positions because of the fear of backlash from customers.

Did you know that your employer has to reasonably accommodate your religious practice and beliefs in the workplace?

Religious activities, such as needing a break to pray at a certain time or wearing a hijab, should be allowed when it's reasonable unless there would be more than a minimal burden on the employer for doing so. For instance, someone wearing a hijab in a factory setting could be at risk of getting caught in machinery, so special steps may need to be taken to make the head wear safe for the workplace.

Other than that, it should be allowed. Similarly, it makes sense to allow anyone who needs to pray at a certain time to do so, but not if it means that they will miss a whole shift. In that case, changing their hours or shift may be a necessity and also wouldn't interfere with their religious activities.

Employees should make sure their employers know that they dress a certain way or have activities that are religious, so that they are protected. If the employer needs more information, then having an interactive process of discussion is a great place to start. If your employer refuses your reasonable requests, then you may want to pursue your legal options in Minnesota.

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John A. Klassen, PA
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