Freedom to follow your religion wouldn’t be very meaningful if you couldn’t work a decent job because of your faith. The right to freedom of religion also theoretically means the right to be free from religious discrimination.
Federal law establishes a person’s religion as a protected characteristic. With the possible exception of actual religious organizations, such as churches or colleges directly affiliated with a specific religion, employers generally cannot consider someone’s faith when making decisions about who to hire, who to promote or who to terminate during downsizing.
Unfortunately, workers who belong to less common religions or who simply observe a different faith than their employer may still face religious discrimination in the workplace. How might religious discrimination affect your career?
- Your employer might view you as less dedicated
Whether you need to attend a religious service every Sunday in the morning or on specific holy days to remain in good standing with your religion, you expect that your employer will accommodate you.
However, it is quite common for companies to treat those who put their job above everything else preferentially. Those who ask for specific days off or who limit their availability may not seem like team players, which can result in subtle discrimination that is, at heart, based on the worker’s religious observances.
- You might have to choose between your faith and your job
Especially when your employer only has a handful of other workers at the company or when you are a relatively new hire, it is possible for your employer to legally decline your request to take certain days off of work. If they can claim that not scheduling you ever on a Sunday would be a hardship for the business, they would be justified in their decision to schedule you even though they know about your religious observances.
Many employers will schedule someone when they know they are not available to force them either to stop requesting leave or to quit the job so that the business will no longer have to accommodate them. Especially when your company could reasonably accommodate you by scheduling others, such behavior is an act of discrimination.
- You may suffer socially and emotionally due to coworker conduct
Harassment and discrimination in the workplace can do psychological damage to the person targeted by their coworkers or employer. Many people who endure a hostile work environment may require counseling to recover from the stress they experience, and they may also struggle to move on with their careers because of the social and emotional damage caused by the discrimination they currently face.
It can be a challenge to evaluate your situation for standards that team entirely subjective. Discussing your situation with a lawyer can help you determine if what you have experienced at work constitutes actionable religious discrimination and can help you fight back against your employer’s disrespect of your faith.