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Michigan religious discrimination accusations growing steadily

Complaints of religious discrimination in the workplace seem to be on the rise in Michigan. Between the years 2012 and 2014, claims of employees who claimed they had suffered religious discrimination shot up 24 percent. Some individuals point to certain Michigan employers' ignorance of the law as it pertains to religious accommodations as one source of the increase.

While it is noted that Michigan's heavily Judeo-Christian foundation has been beneficial for some employers and religious sensitivity, it may also make it difficult to properly handle accommodations for less well-known religions. As certain areas in Michigan propel forward into an increasingly global economy, it is important for employers to understand how to understand sincerely held religious beliefs in the workplace. If workplace guidelines for dress and appearance do not pertain to safety or are not in writing, an employee's request to accommodate a long beard or religious tattoo generally deserve to be allowed.

In one instance of alleged religious discrimination, a follower of a small religion filed a claim pertaining to his tattoo. The tattoo, he said, represented his belief in Ra, the ancient Egyptian sun god. Although the religion has only a handful of followers worldwide, the tattoo was an inherent factor of his religious belief, and requiring that he cover it contraindicated his beliefs.

While some Michigan employees are simply unaware of the laws when it comes to religious discrimination, others might simply wish to not accommodate an employee's beliefs as they pertain to their religion. Even if an employer has a written dress code, if the requirements do not pertain to the safety of the employee, they may be irrelevant in the case of religious beliefs that are sincerely held to be true. If an employer is still unwilling to budge, an employee may have the right to file a religious discrimination claim for being asked to discontinue certain appearance-based beliefs while at work.

Source: grbj.com, "Religious discrimination claims on the rise in Michigan", Charlsie Dewey, April 25, 2014

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