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Under California state and federal law, employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against an employee because of their religion or their choice to not associate themselves with a religious belief system. Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 protects California workers against religious discrimination in all aspects of employment including hiring, firing, promotion, or any other terms or conditions of employment. The law also protects a person’s right to participate or not participate in a religious activity as a term or condition of employment.
If an employee requires reasonable accommodations for religious reasons, an employer must try to provide these accommodations unless it causes undue burden to their business operations. Common examples of religious accommodations include adjusting an employee’s work schedule that will allow them to practice religion, offering a flexible schedule, allowing an employee to swap or switch shifts, job reassignment, and allowing an exception to dress code policy that permits an employee to wear religious attire such as head coverings.
Here are shortcuts to the specific topics:
- Religious Discrimination Lawyer in Los Angeles
- How Mesriani Religious Discrimination Lawyers Can Help
- Why Choose Mesriani Law Group’s Religious Discrimination Lawyers
- What is Religious Discrimination?
- Examples of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
- What Qualifies as Religion Under the Civil Right Act?
- What You Should Do if You Are a Victim of Religious Discrimination
- California Laws Against Religious Discrimination
- Who Must Follow Religious Discrimination Laws?
- Employee Rights to Religious Freedom
- Employee Responsibilities to Ensure Religious Freedom
- Reasonable Accommodations for Religious Reasons
- Religious Discrimination Exemptions
- Do You Have a Religious Discrimination Claim?
- Damages That Can Be Recovered in a Religious Discrimination Claim
- Statute of Limitations for a Religious Discrimination Claim
- Contact a Mesriani Religious Discrimination Lawyer Today
- Religious Discrimination Lawyer FAQs
How Mesriani Religious Discrimination Lawyers Can Help
We have extensive knowledge, experience, and resources available to investigate your religious discrimination claim and to hold your employer responsible for their actions. If you have notified your employer about a religious accommodation need, your employer must try to provide reasonable accommodations. However, if your employer fails or refuses to do so, contact our employment law firm as soon as possible. At Mesriani Law Group, we aggressively fight for our clients to obtain the best results possible. Some of ways that we provide superior legal service to our clients include:
- We offer a free and confidential consultation.
- We address any questions you may have in a prompt manner.
- We do not charge upfront or hidden fees.
- If we do not win your case, you do not pay us anything.
For over 20 years, we have fought to protect the rights of California workers. Whether you work for a large or small sized, private, or public employer, you deserve to work at a place that is free from religious discrimination and harassment. If you suspect your rights have been violated at work, contact our employment law firm for help. We can help you file a claim against your employer and obtain maximum compensation which may include back pay, increase job wages, reinstatement of your job if you were wrongfully terminated, emotional distress damages, attorney fees, and punitive damages.
Why Choose Mesriani Law Group’s Religious Discrimination Lawyers
If you or someone you love has been a victim of religious discrimination in the workplace, you want an experienced attorney who has a history of successfully handling religious discrimination claims. Mesriani Law Group’s lawyers guarantee exceptional legal service to our clients and have the successful results to prove it.
Why you should choose Mesriani Law Group for your religious discrimination claim:
No Win No Fee Policy
Mesriani Law Group offers a No Win No Fee guarantee to all our clients, meaning if we don’t win your case you don’t have to pay us anything.
Proven Track Record
Since its establishment in 1996, Mesriani Law Group continues to be among California’s most trusted law firms. We have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients who have been victims in hit and run accidents.
Experienced Religious Discrimination Attorneys
Rodney Mesriani and his team of dedicated lawyers have over two decades of experience and outstanding expertise in securing compensation in religious discrimination claims.
Mesriani Law Group represents clients from different parts of Southern California and has received the highest ratings by our clients as seen in Yelp, Avvo, and Google.
Our diverse team of attorneys and paralegals also speak Farsi, Spanish, and Tagalog. Effective communication is a big part of the exceptional customer service we provide our clients.
We are available 24/7 for a phone consultation and if you are not able to visit our office, we are amenable to meet you at your convenience.
Our religious discrimination lawyers in Los Angeles will fight aggressively to ensure that you get the maximum compensation and justice you deserve. Contact our law firm at (866) 500-7070 for a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you with your employment claim.
What is Religious Discrimination?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) identifies religious discrimination as when an employer treats a job applicant or employee unfairly because of their religious beliefs. In addition to protecting people who belong to traditional, organized religions including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam, employment laws also protect individuals who have other personal religious, ethical, or moral beliefs. Religious discrimination can also involve treating a person differently because that person is married to or associated with someone of a certain religion.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes employment discrimination unlawful based on religion. Under this statute, employers cannot refuse to accommodate an employee’s religious practices or beliefs unless the accommodation would cause undue hardship or more than a minimal burden on business operations. Additionally, employers cannot factor a job applicant’s or employee’s religious beliefs when making employment decisions about hiring, promotions, training, firing, compensation, or job assignments.
California employers are also prohibited from tolerating religious-based harassment or retaliating against employees who file charges based on religious discrimination. Harassment includes anything behavior that creates an offensive, hostile, or intimidating work environment. Retaliation occurs when an employer treats an employee unfavorably because an employee or job applicant filed a complaint or reported unlawful behavior.
Religious discrimination typically falls into two categories: disparate treatment (or intentional) discrimination and disparate impact discrimination.
Disparate Treatment Discrimination
Intentional religious discrimination happens when an employer makes a negative or adverse employment decision such as failure to hire or termination based on a job applicant’s or employee’s religious beliefs or practices. Discrimination based on religions is prohibited not only based on an employee’s affiliation with a religion but also the perception that an employee is a member of a religious group. It is also unlawful to discriminate against an employee’s association with a member of a religious group.
Common examples of intentional discrimination include:
- Failure to hire or termination of an employee to avoid accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs or practices.
- Refusal to hire a job applicant exclusively because the applicant does not share the employer’s religious beliefs.
- Failure to hire an applicant who wore a hijab or burka to a job interview because of the employer’s dress code policy prohibits headwear.
Reassignment of an employee to a lower paying or less public position because the employer falsely believes that the employee’s hijab or burka makes customers uncomfortable.
- Refusal to reasonably accommodate the request of a Seventh-day Adventist farm worker to observe the Sabbath on Saturday then terminates the worker for observing the day.
- Refusal to allow employees to engage in religious practices that doesn’t cause undue hardship on business operations such as daily prayer.
Disparate Impact Discrimination
Disparate impact refers to unintentional discrimination. Employment policies and procedures are the same for everyone but people in a protected class or certain religious group are negatively affected. For example, if an employer adopts a policy that employees cannot wear any headgear while working, this will have a negative impact on employees whose religious beliefs require them to wear a hijab, burka, turban, or yarmulke.
Examples of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
Employees who experience religious discrimination can also be victims of other forms of illegal discrimination including racial discrimination, national origin discrimination, and immigration or citizenship status discrimination. Since discrimination can sometimes be tricky to identify, here are some common examples of religious discrimination to look out for:
Hiring, firing, or promotion
- Refusing to hire a job applicant because of their specific religious beliefs including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism.
- Refusing to hire a job applicant because he or she observes certain religious holidays such as Saturday Sabbath.
- Firing a worker after she or he misses work for observing a religious holiday.
- Basing a promotion exclusively on whether an employee is willing to attend church regularly.
- Only promoting employees who believe in a specific religion.
- Transferring an employee to a less public position because she or he wears religious clothing or head coverings such as a hijab, burka, turbans, or yarmulke.
- Refusing to give an employee a raise until she or he stop discussing their religious beliefs with other employees during breaks or lunch.
- Firing every employee of a specific creed.
- Making fun or joking about employees and telling them they’re violating the employer’s dress code because they’re wearing religious clothing or head scarves.
- Repeating making fun or mocking an employee because of their strongly held Christian or Catholic beliefs.
- Ridiculing a Muslim employee for refusing to eat pork at a company lunch.
- Repeatedly making statements such as “Jesus Christ will save your soul” to an employee who is atheist.
Failure to accommodate
- Requiring an employee to work on Saturday Sabbath even though other employees are available and willing to switch swifts with him.
- Forcing an employee to remove their head scarf (such as hijab or burka) to comply with the company’s dress code policy even though other employees are allowed to wear baseball or football caps while working.
- Refusing to allow employees to display religious icons or other expressions of religious beliefs at their workspace, even though company policy allows employees to display other types of personal items.
What Qualifies as Religion Under the Civil Right Act?
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, religion isn’t only limited to a traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, or Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto, Sikhism, or Hinduism. Rather, the Title VII defines religion rather broadly. Under the law, sincerely held faiths that addresses ultimate ideas regarding life, death, God, and purpose also qualify as religion. Religious beliefs that are uncommon, new, not part of a formal sect or church, or only held by a small number of individuals are also considered religion. Religious beliefs include theistic beliefs (belief in God) and non-theistic (moral or ethical beliefs). Protection under Title VII also extend to employees who are discriminated against or require accommodation because they do not declare religious beliefs.
However, political, economic, or social philosophies, or personal preferences, do not qualify as religious beliefs under Title VII. To put it another way, you probably won’t win a religious discrimination case against your employer if they refuse to give you time off to attend a political rally or fundraiser.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides information help employers, employees, job applicants, and human resources representatives understand workplace religious discrimination which includes religious accommodation, employment decisions, and harassment.
What You Should Do if You Are a Victim of Religious Discrimination
If you have been treated unfairly by your employer because of your religion, you may have a claim for religious discrimination. There are several steps you can take to protect yourself and preserve your legal rights including:
- Keep a journal – In a journal, write down the discriminatory behavior and harassment you experienced at work because of your religious beliefs. Take notes about the type of behavior, dates, times, locations, names of individuals involved, and names of any witnesses. Keep this journal at home or in a safe place, but make sure you don’t keep it at work.
- File a written report – Many employers have company policies that prohibit religious discrimination. If your employer does, follow the procedures in the employee handbook to report the discrimination and harassment. If your employer doesn’t have this policy, file a written report to your supervisor, manager, or someone in your human resources department. This written report doesn’t have to be formal or very long– an email will be enough.
- Keep records – Keep a copy of emails or any documentation between you and your employer regarding your religious discrimination or harassment complaint. If you don’t already have a copy of the employee handbook, request a copy as soon as possible. Also, make sure you keep a copy of any positive performance reviews, letters, or memos. Just like your journal, make sure you keep these documents at home or a safe place but not at work.
- Don’t quit your job – While it may be very tempting to quit your job when you are being harassed or discriminated at work, don’t rush into quitting your job. Employees who quit before reporting religious discrimination will have a more challenging time winning an employment lawsuit. Instead, if you’re experiencing discrimination, harassment, or being treated unfairly at work because of your religious beliefs, speak with an employment attorney about how to preserver your legal rights.
- Take care of yourself – If you are experiencing stress, anxiety, emotional distress, depression, or any other psychological symptoms because of religious discrimination or harassment at work, seek professional counseling or treatment. Your well-being is essential to fighting against workplace discrimination so take care of yourself as best as you can.
- Contact an employment attorney – Workplace self-care starts with knowing your employment rights. If you suspect you’re a victim of religious discrimination, contact a Los Angeles employment attorney at Mesriani Law Group by calling (866) 500-7070 to schedule your free and confidential consultation.
California Laws Against Religious Discrimination
In addition to federal laws like Title VII of the of the Civil Rights, California workers are further protected by state laws. Here are some of the primary employment state laws against religious discrimination you should know about:
California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
In California, workers are protected from religious discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA is provides stronger protection for California workers for several reasons including:
- A FEHA state case doesn’t require a unanimous verdict.
- FEHA doesn’t put a cap on the damages a victim can receive.
FEHA section code 12940 states that it is unlawful (except in cases of a bona fide occupational qualification), for an employer to refuse to hire, fire, or discriminate against a person in regard to compensation or in any conditions, terms, or privileges of employment based on their religious creed.
When there is conflict with a worker’s religious observance, an employer must try to reasonable accommodate the employee. For example, an employer might excuse the worker from his or her duties that conflicts with the worker’s religious beliefs. If there is a scheduling conflict, the employer must seek options to excuse the worker or find an alternative worker to cover that shift.
Additionally, while Title VII protection only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, the FEHA anti-discriminatory law applies to employers with five or more employees. Further, the FEHA makes harassment unlawful based on a protected category against an applicant, employee, unpaid volunteer, unpaid intern, or a contractor. Under the FEHA, harassment is unlawful in all workplaces– even those with fewer than five workers.
California Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 (WFRA)
The California Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 (WFRA) amended the FEHA and prohibits workplace discrimination based on religion or religious creed. It also requires employers to accommodate employees’ religious observances and practices in the workplace which includes religious dress or grooming practices. Religious dress practice includes carrying or wearing religious clothing, face or head coverings, artifacts, jewelry, and any item that is part of a religious observance. Religious grooming practice includes any form of facial, head, and body hair that is part of a religious creed.
The WFRA offers employees more protected compared to federal law. California state laws protect employees of almost all belief structures if those beliefs are sincerely held. If your sincerely held or religious belief does not cause your employer undue hardship or burden, your employer must reasonably accommodate your religious belief and observances. Further, the law specifies that an accommodation isn’t considered reasonable if the accommodation results in the segregation of the employee from the public or other employees.
Who Must Follow Religious Discrimination Laws?
In general, Title VII discrimination laws apply to both private and public sector employers including federal, state, and local employers with 15 or more employees. It also applies to labor organizations and employment agencies.
California has its own set of anti-discrimination laws, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which covers employers in both the private and public sector with five or more employees.
Employee Rights to Religious Freedom
Unless it causes an undue burden or hardship on business operations, employers are required to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices or beliefs. For example, an employer must provide a flexible schedule to allow an Orthodox Jewish employee to observe religious observances such as Sabbath.
Employers also are prohibited from segregating employees based on religion. For example, an employer cannot assign an employee to a non-public or non-customer facing position because he or she is Hindu or Muslim.
Employers must also reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices with regards to dress or grooming. This includes allowing an employee to wear religious clothing or head covering and wearing certain facial hair or hairstyle. Failure to make these reasonable accommodate is considered a form of religious discrimination.
Employee Responsibilities to Ensure Religious Freedom
As an employee, you have two primary responsibilities to ensure religious freedom at the workplace including:
- If you need to take time off for religious obligations, inform your employer as soon as possible. Requesting time off the day before could be considered unreasonable so it’s best to provide your employer with as much notice as possible to avoid possible scheduling or work conflict.
- If a problem comes up, report it as soon as possible. It’s best to make a report in writing and within 45 days of the incident.
While California employees are protected from religious discrimination at work, it is a good idea to give your employer enough notice for any religious time off requests.
Reasonable Accommodations for Religious Reasons
Under the FEHA, employers must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or observances. For example, employment laws protect certain employees who cannot work on Sabbath. In this situation, the employer must make reasonable accommodations for the employee’s schedule such as switching his or her shift with another employee so they can take time off.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also requires California employers to make reasonable accommodations for religious reasons. Examples of employment religious accommodations may include:
- Changing an employee’s work schedule.
- Allowing an employee to makeshift swaps or substitutions.
- Making job reassignments or lateral transfers.
- Modifying workplace policy and procedures.
An employer’s refusal to provide reasonable accommodations could be considered religious discrimination. Some examples of religious discrimination include:
- Forcing an employee to remove their religious head covering such as a hijab or burka but allowing another employee to wear a baseball cap.
- Refusing to let an employee display religious items on their desk but allowing another employee to display other personal items such as family photographs.
California state and federal laws require an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s sincerely held beliefs unless it causes undue hardship to business operations. For an accommodation to cause undue hardship, it must compromise workplace safety, decrease efficiency, be costly, infringe on the rights of other employees, or require other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous work.
If your employer refuses to make reasonable accommodations for your religious reasons or forces you to remove religious head covering while allowing other employees to wear other types of headgear, contact a religious discrimination attorney as soon as possible. Discrimination for religious reasons is unlawful in California and an experienced attorney can help you obtain justice for your suffering.
Religious Discrimination Exemptions
Keep in mind that there are certain exceptions to religious discrimination laws. Generally, non-profit organizations and religious institutions are not covered under the FEHA. For example, a Catholic university might be allowed to deny work to a job candidate who is Muslim.
Additionally, when a religious observance cannot be reasonably accommodated without causing undue hardship to the employer, certain types of discrimination might be allowed. If you are unsure if you are being unlawfully discriminated against at work for religious reasons, contact Mesriani Law Group for more information.
Do You Have a Religious Discrimination Claim?
Laws against religious discrimination makes it unlawful for employers to consider a person’s religious or sincerely held beliefs in any aspect of employment including hiring, firing, training, pay, promotions, job assignments, fringe benefits, or any other terms or conditions of employment. In addition to organized religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, or Islam, those who have sincerely held beliefs are also protected from religious discrimination.
Religious discrimination involves treating a person differently or unfairly because of their connection to a religious group or organization. Federal law such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also protect individuals who are not affiliated with a particular religion from discrimination. For example, an employer who discriminates against an employee that does not share the same belief system may be breaking the law. Title VII also prohibits harassment in the workplace because of an employee’s religion. Examples of harassment can include offensive jokes or remarks about an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. Harassment can also exist when an employer who forces his or her own beliefs upon an employee. To bring forward a religious discrimination claim, a victim must show that the harassment was so frequent and severe that it created a hostile work environment. The harasser does not necessarily have to be the victim’s supervisor or employer but can include their co-worker or even someone who isn’t employed by the same employer such as a client, vendor, or customer.
Typically, federal and state laws protect employees from religious discrimination but there may be exemptions. For example, religious institutions may have the right to only hire individuals who share the same belief system. However, this does not mean that they have the right to discriminate based on another protected class other than religion. For example, although a Catholic institution may refuse to hire a non-Catholic job applicant based on religion, they cannot refuse to hire the job applicant based on their race, national origin, age, disability, or sex.
Unless it causes undue burden or hardship to business operations, an employer is required by law to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious beliefs, practices, or observances. Reasonable accommodation can include giving an employee time off for a religious observance, switching or changing an employee’s work schedule, allowing employees to wear religious head gear, clothing, facial hair, or hairstyle.
If you have experienced unfair treatment or harassment at your workplace based on your religious beliefs, you may have a religious discrimination claim. It may be intimidating to fight back against your employer, but with an experienced religious discrimination attorney by your side, you will have the best chance possible to obtain the justice you deserve.
Damages That Can Be Recovered in a Religious Discrimination Claim
Workplace religious discrimination violates both California state law and federal law. As a victim of religious discrimination, you may be entitled to recover compensation for losses related to your employer’s discriminatory actions. Damages you may recover in a religious discrimination claim may include:
- Back pay
- Regular wages
- Bonus payments
- Pension benefits
- Higher income from a promotion or raise
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Attorney’s fees and court costs
In rare cases, victims of religious discrimination may also get awarded punitive damages which meant to punish the wrongdoer for their outrageous or extremely reckless conduct. It is also meant to deter them from engaging in a similar behavior in the future.
Statute of Limitations for a Religious Discrimination Claim
Statute of limitations refers to the deadline for filing a lawsuit. Most lawsuits must be filed within a certain amount of time and generally once the statute of limitations runs out, the claim is no longer valid.
Generally, an employee who suspect they are a victim of religious discrimination in the workplace has one year from the date of termination to obtain a right-to-sue letter from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). After obtaining the letter, the employee usually has one year to file a lawsuit.
However, in some cases, the deadline is much shorter. Public entities have a different statute of limitations compared to private companies. The deadline for public employers may be as short as six months. Because of these strict deadlines, it’s best to contact an employment attorney as soon as possible if have any questions about religious discrimination in the workplace.
Contact a Mesriani Religious Discrimination Lawyer Today
If you have questions about whether a particular treatment or action is considered religious discrimination, a Los Angeles employment lawyer who handles religious discrimination can review your specific situation and advise you about your legal rights and options. While it can be challenging to figure out if what you’re experiencing is religious discrimination, an experienced attorney is trained to identify these issues and can help you determine what to do next. At Mesriani Law Group, our lawyer for religious discrimination can guide you through the process of filing a complaint with your employer, the United State Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), local, or state agency.
We accept clients on a No Win, No Fee basis and that means if we don’t win your case, you don’t owe us anything. Contact our law office today at (866) 500-7070 for your free, confidential consultation.
Religious Discrimination Lawyer FAQs
Can you sue for religious discrimination?
Under California law, job applicants and employees have the right to seek and hold employment without getting discriminated against based on religious creed. California employees who are discriminated against based on their religion or religious practices can file a claim to sue their employers for discrimination.
How much a religious discrimination case worth?
Victims of religious discrimination are entitled to compensation for their losses. However, since there are no two cases that are the same and the details of most lawsuits are kept confidential, it is difficult to say how much a religious discrimination case is worth. Depending on your unique situation, damages you may be entitled to include front pay, back pay, bonus, benefits, emotional distress, pain and suffering, attorney’s fees, court costs, and possibly punitive damages. If you believe you are the victim of religious discrimination at work, an employment attorney can review your case and determine how much your case may be worth.
What qualifies as religious discrimination?
Religious discrimination involves treating a job applicant or employee unfavorably based on his or her religious beliefs, practices, or request for reasonable accommodations based on religion. Treating individuals differently because of their lack of religious practices or beliefs also qualifies as religious discrimination.
What laws protect religious discrimination?
Federal and state laws protect California workers from religious discrimination. The federal law that prohibits religious discrimination at the workplace is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In California, job applicants and workers are protected by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the California Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 (WRFA).