Religious Discrimination: How to Prevent It in the Workplace

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On Behalf of Law Offices of Eric A. Boyajian | July 29, 2023 Religious Discrimination

As a business owner or manager, you want to do everything possible to ensure your workplace feels safe and supportive for your employees. Protecting your employees from religious discrimination by developing clear procedures and setting expected standards is an integral part of this process. To find out more about religious discrimination and how you can prevent it in your workplace, keep reading below:

What is Religious Discrimination?

Religious, or belief, discrimination occurs when an individual experiences an unfair disadvantage for reasons related to their beliefs or religion.

However, while it is clear what religion is, understanding a belief can be more complicated. In this instance, a belief means any philosophical or religious belief or a lack of belief. So, for example, people can be discriminated against for being atheists.

How Common is Religious Discrimination in the Workplace?

Although many employers don’t like to admit it, the number of cases of religious discrimination in the workplace has increased over the past few years. If we take Muslims as an example, research suggests that Muslim men are now three-quarters less likely to be employed in the US than their white Christian counterparts.

The Civil Rights Act – Protecting Employees From Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects job applicants and employees in the US from discrimination based on their religion or beliefs. As well as this, it requires all employers to allow to some degree the religious practices of potential and current employees unless doing so would create a significant problem for the business.

What Groups Are Covered by the Civil Rights Act?

Although the Civil Rights Act doesn’t give a list of groups that it covers, these are some of the religions that have been covered in the past:

  • Christian
  • Hindu
  • Muslim
  • Jewish
  • Buddhist
  • Sikh
  • Hindu
  • Humanist
  • Atheist
  • Pagan

As well as this, other beliefs that have been protected by the Civil Rights Act include:

  • Green or environmental beliefs in the importance of climate change
  • Spiritualism
  • Anti-hunting
  • Animal welfare
  • Beliefs in the psychic field
  • Some political beliefs

How to Prevent Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

To avoid costly lawsuits, employers need to do everything they can to prevent religious discrimination in the workplace. Here are some ways employers can do this:

  • Avoid imposing criteria that may be considered discriminatory based on religion. For example, insisting employees work on Sundays unless this is important to achieve a legitimate business aim.
  • Create an equal opportunities policy and ensure that it states that there must be no discrimination against employees or job applicants on the grounds of religion or belief.
  • Ensure that access to opportunities for transfer, promotion, and training is not limited on the grounds of religion or belief.
  • Be mindful of the misunderstandings that can occur during interviews between people of different religions.
  • Ensure all employees, particularly those in managerial positions, understand the business’s equal opportunities policy.
  • When possible, allow employees to hold prayer services at work.
  • Take all complaints of religious discrimination and harassment seriously, investigate what took place thoroughly, and if the complaint is well-founded, ensure steps are taken to prevent it from happening again.
  • Unless the job you are advertising falls within the category of an occupational requirement, you mustn’t advertise for someone of a particular religious group.
  • Regularly check whether the occupational requirements you have applied are still valid.
  • Ensure that no workplace victimization occurs if an employee complains about religious discrimination.
  • If you need to make people redundant in your workplace, choose people from various religious backgrounds to avoid religious discrimination.
  • Do everything possible to prevent employees from behaving in a discriminatory way. This includes training them on inclusivity and equality and communicating the organization’s policies and procedures.
  • Ensure that all employees are given an equal opportunity for training.
  • Ensure you have a valid reason to terminate an employee so that they cannot argue it was because of religious discrimination.
  • During interviews, ask all applicants the same questions, and stick to matters directly related to the role available.
  • Carefully and precisely record business reasons for an employee’s disciplinary.
  • If faced with customer biases, such as a bad response to being served by an employee wearing religious garments, engage with the customer and educate them on their misconceptions/the equal opportunities laws.

Unfortunately, very few employers promote religious equality in the workplace. A recent survey found that only one-quarter of workers believe their organizations understand and promote religious beliefs and diversity. As well as this, lots of people feel they have been discriminated against in the past because of their religion. This needs to change.

If you’ve faced this kind of discrimination, contact our lawyers at Eric A. Boyajian.

Visit our offices at 450 N Brand Blvd #613, Glendale, CA 91203.

Call us today for a free consultation on (818) 839-5969.