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Responding to religious discrimination in Michigan workplaces

An Oakland County employee's religious beliefs are protected under federal employments laws. Employers may not harass or discriminate against job applicants or workers for religious reasons. Companies also must make accommodations for the religious practices of employees unless doing so causes an undue hardship for the employer.

Religion is one of many protected classes or characteristics of employees outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Religious beliefs may be strongly tied to a worker's national origin or ethnicity, which are also classes protected by laws. Other protected characteristics include race, sex and color.

Employment discrimination and harassment don't have to come from a manager for workplace violations to take place. The origin of mistreatment may be a colleague or even a non-employee associated with a company. Religious discrimination complaints may be filed whether you or someone else on staff is a target of harassment.

Michigan employers are not expected to respond only after an employment violation occurs. Companies are urged to take a proactive approach to prevent improper work behaviors due to an employee's religious affiliation, expression, association or perception. Employers may conduct training sessions to make workers more sensitive to the rules concerning protected classes.

Employees should be informed about workers' rights. Workers should learn how to proceed through a company's complaint process and understand doing so won't jeopardize their jobs. Employers may not retaliate against workers for exercising employment rights, whether a complaint is filed internally or externally with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or some other agency.

Attorneys can assess religious discrimination claims and other allegations of unlawful employer activities. Legal advisers guide workers and their job complaints through the proper channels and when possible, work toward recovery of damages in civil actions against employers. Lawyers are also aware of complaint filing deadlines imposed by various state and federal government agencies.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Employment Discrimination Based on Religion, Ethnicity, or Country of Origin," accessed July 24, 2015

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