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How the Civil Rights Act of 1964 affects your religious beliefs

One of the most coveted freedoms Americans have is the freedom to exercise and enjoy any religion they see fit. This right is so important that people from other countries come to this country to escape religious persecution.

So, why do the people you work with feel as though they have the right to harass or discriminate against you because of your religion? After all, it's your right. In fact, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for your employer to allow religious discrimination and harassment to happen in the workplace.

What constitutes discrimination based on your religion?

You may suspect that your supervisors, co-workers or both are harassing or discriminating against you because of your religion, but how do you know? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that the following types of behaviors and actions reveal such a bias:

  • Severe and frequent teasing, offhanded remarks or other disparaging statements or behaviors about you and/or your religion that create a hostile work environment
  • Segregating you from other employees or customers based on your religious preferences
  • Failing to provide you with reasonable accommodations for your religious beliefs
  • Prohibiting you from reasonably participating in your religious practices
  • Failing to allow you to wear a head covering or other clothing required by your religious beliefs
  • Denying you the right to wear a beard or certain hairstyle required by your religious beliefs
  • Attempting to make you wear clothing prohibited by your religion

The above constitutes the most often cited instances of religious discrimination. Your employer ought to have policies and procedures prohibiting these actions or behaviors. If it does, you should first look to them for a resolution. If your employer does not resolve the issue to your satisfaction, you may need to go outside the company for relief.

Before you take any action that could affect your rights, you would benefit from gaining an understanding of exactly what those rights are. You may also need a second opinion regarding whether your situation constitutes religious discrimination. For instance, a couple of offhanded comments probably don't necessarily mean a violation of your rights occurred. In order to know for sure and to explore your legal options, you may want to consult with an experienced employment law attorney here in New York first.

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