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What is considered religious discrimination in the workplace?

When it comes to some topics many choose not to discuss in the workplace, among the three most popular are politics, finances and religion. Given that this is a country that was founded on religious freedom; many relish in the ability to choose how involved they want to become involved with a religion. For the more pious of the bunch, religion can play a significant role in their lives including the workplace.

Federal and state law both strictly prohibit an employer from considering a employee's religion in making decisions on hiring, promotions or pay raises, job assignments, layoffs or firings. Title VII of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines establishes that an employee cannot be segregated from others in response to their mandated clothing options or grooming choices, nor because of fear of customer response.

With respect to an employee's practicing of their religious beliefs, an employer is required by law to accommodate their employee's rituals provided they cause no more than a minimal burden in doing so. This includes offering flexible scheduling or voluntary shift swaps necessary so they can attend religious observances and permitting headdresses or their maintenance of certain facial hair required as part of their religion.

On the converse, a religious practice that is seen as causing undue hardship on an employer is prohibited. Examples of this include ones that impact other workers, those that affect workplace safety or productivity, or create more work for another employee as a result.

When it comes to an employee seeking out accommodation for religious reasons, they are required to first notify their employer of their intentions to have their religious rights preserved. In doing so, the employer has the right to ask additional information about how to best accommodate the employee to understand the feasibility of doing so. Those circumstances not posing undue hardship to the employer are required to be approved.

It should be noted that religious discrimination can come at the hands of an supervisor, co-worker, a client or a customer. If you suspect that you have been discriminated against on religious grounds in the workplace, a Michigan employment law attorney can help you learn more about your legal options.

Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Relgious Discrimination," accessed Jan. 11, 2017

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