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Religious discrimination in the workplace: a primer

It is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of his or her religious beliefs.

One of the founding principles of our country is that of religious freedom. It is a tenet of our society - and our government - that we should be free to practice whatever religion we prefer. While the Constitution declares that the government can't force us to adhere to particular religious beliefs, it also grants us the ability to follow our chosen doctrine in every aspect of our lives. That protection extends to the workplace: federal laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act give us the freedom to express our dogma in the workplace without fear of reprisal, harassment or discrimination.

Religious expression in America's workplaces has been in the news in recent years for many reasons, including the Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the country and the influx of Muslim immigrants from war-torn countries. Unfortunately, these high-profile examples haven't fostered universal acceptance of varying religious views amongst co-workers, colleagues, clients, supervisors and managers in the job market. Discrimination can and does still happen, so it's important for you to understand what sorts of actions and behaviors by your employer and others are acceptable in the workplace and what aren't.

What is religious discrimination?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), discrimination based on religion is defined as treating an employee or applicant differently because of his or her religious beliefs. Federal law protects people who follow organized religions like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam as well as those who have deeply-held moral or ethical tenets but don't necessarily ascribe to one particular faith.

Religious discrimination in the workplace can consist of a wide range of disparate treatment. The discrimination can involve outright negative treatment of a person of a different religion, treating those with the same beliefs better or refusing to make reasonable accommodations (defined by the EEOC as accommodations that would impose no more than a "minimal burden on the business operations of the employer") to allow someone to practice their religious beliefs. Religious discrimination covers all aspects of employment, including:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promotion
  • Scheduling
  • Training opportunities
  • Division of labor
  • Responsibility allocation
  • Pay/wages
  • Fringe benefits
  • Overtime
  • Layoffs

Have you been discriminated against or harassed in the workplace because of your religious beliefs? If so, you may be able to bring a civil claim to hold those who discriminated against you accountable for their illegal actions. To learn more about legal options at your disposal, contact the Wilmington law offices of Martin D. Haverly, Attorney at Law by calling (302) 529-0121 or sending an email.

View Cases

  • Sheridan v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 100 F.3d 1061 (3rd Cir. 1996) (en banc) (Plaintiff's jury verdict and the "pretext only" paradigm for proof of intentional discrimination established).
  • Hawkins v. Division of State Police, et al., C.A. No. 99-297-SLR (Religious discrimination case which successfully obtained an offer of judgment and caused the State to stop using the MMPI-1.
  • Miller v. Daimler Chrysler Corp., C. A. No. 01-827-JJF (D.Del. 2003) (Race Discrimination claim survived Motion for Summary Judgment).
  • Panaro v. J.C. Penny, Inc., C.A. 01C-02-010 JOH, 2002 WL 130692 (Del. Super. 2002)(In a personal injury case, admission into evidence of direct examination of deceased deponent/plaintiff does not.
  • Price, et al. v. L. Aaron Chaffinch, et al., C.A. No. 04-956-GMS, 2006 WL 1313178 (D.Del. 2006) (First Amendment Retaliation, Petitions Clause and Defamation Claims survived Motion for Summary Judgment).
  • Reyes v. Freebery, 141 Fed. Appx. 49 (3d Cir. 2005) (per curiam) remanding to District Court to explain its restrictions on the public's right to access to judicial records and counsel's First Amendment.
  • Underwood v. Sear Roebuck and Co., 343 F.Supp.2d 259 (D.Del. 2004) (Gender discrimination claim survived Motion for Summary Judgment).
  • Shotzberger v. State of Delaware Dept. Of Correction, 2004 WL 758354 (D.Del. Jan. 30, 2004) (Gender discrimination claim survived Motion for Summary Judgement).
  • Stull v. Thomas S. Neuberger, P.A., 2003 WL 21481016 (Del. Super. Febr. 28, 2003) (Effect of Delaware accord and satisfaction law on a contract for legal services).
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