FAQ Religious Discrimination

What federal statute protects me from religious discrimination?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals against employment discrimination on the bases of their religion.  It is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of his/her religion in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment.  There are a number of state and local statutes that provide similar protection, and in the case of the New York City anti-discrimination laws, even greater protection.
 

Are all employers covered by Title VII’s religion anti-discrimination rules?

No.  An employer must have at least 15 employees to be subject to Title VII.  State and City laws may vary.  For example, New York State and New York City anti-discrimination laws cover employers who have 4 or more employees.
 

What types of religious discrimination actions are covered by Title VII?

All adverse employment actions are prohibited by Title VII, including:

Discrimination against any employee or applicant for employment because of his/her religion in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment. 

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on religion, or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.
 

Can my employer force me to participate in religious activities?

Employees cannot be forced to participate - or not participate - in a religious activity as a condition of employment.
 

Is my employer required to accommodate my religious beliefs or practices?

Yes.  Employers must reasonably accommodate employees' sincerely held religious beliefs or practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.  A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his religion.  Flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments and lateral transfers and modifying workplace practices, policies and/or procedures are examples of how an employer might accommodate an employee's religious beliefs.

An employer is not required to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs and practices if doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s legitimate business interests.  An employer can show undue hardship if accommodating an employee's religious practices requires more than ordinary administrative costs, diminishes efficiency in other jobs, infringes on other employees' job rights or benefits, impairs workplace safety, causes co-workers to carry the accommodated employee's share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work, or if the proposed accommodation conflicts with another law or regulation.
 

Can I express my religious beliefs at work?

Maybe.  Employers must permit employees to engage in religious expression if employees are permitted to engage in other personal expression at work, unless the religious expression would impose an undue hardship on the employer.  Therefore, an employer may not place more restrictions on religious expression than on other forms of expression that have a comparable effect on workplace efficiency.
 

What must my employer do to prevent harassment regarding religious beliefs?

Employers must take steps to prevent religious harassment of their employees.  An employer can reduce the chance that employees will engage unlawful religious harassment by implementing an anti-harassment policy and having an effective procedure for reporting, investigating and correcting harassing conduct.
 

How long will the litigation take to be resolved?

In the event a lawsuit is filed, it is truly impossible to predict the duration of litigation. Certain companies may wish to settle the case early; others may wish to fight you “tooth and nail.”  Cases filed in federal court are generally resolved quicker than those filed in state court.
 

How long do I have to file a religious discrimination claim under Title VII?

Under federal law in New York, you must file your claim within 300 days of the last act of discrimination.  Under similar New York State and New York City laws, you must file a claim with the respective agency tasked with enforcing the law within 1 year of the last discriminatory act.  You may, however, choose to forego filing with a State or City agency and file your complaint directly with a New York State court.  In the event that you choose to bypass a State or City agency then you must file your complaint within 3 years of the last discriminatory act.
 

What relief can a court award me if I prove a claim of religious discrimination?

Under Title VII, you may be entitled to: back-pay and benefits with interest, front-pay and benefits, punitive damages to punish your employer’s willful violation of Title VII, and compensatory damages for willful violations of Title VII to compensate you for mental anguish or other physical injuries suffered as a proximate cause of the employer’s conduct (punitive and compensatory damage awards are capped at a statutory amount, and is determined by the number of people employed by your employer).  Reimbursement of your attorneys’ fees and expenses in bringing the Complaint are also available.  New York City anti-discrimination laws do not impose a cap on punitive damages.

 

 

 

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