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Religious Discrimination

Religious Discrimination Attorneys - San Francisco

It is illegal under both federal and California state law for an employer to discriminate against an employee or a potential employee on the basis of that person’s religious beliefs or practices. Employers must also take the necessary steps to prevent religious harassment and hostile work environments based on religious beliefs, practices, lack of religious beliefs, or dress.  For example a religious employee should not be harassed for wearing a head covering.  Many religious discrimination cases are based on the failure of an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious practices.  However some cases involve more direct discrimination, such as firing an employee for their religious beliefs. If you believe that your employer has discriminated against you because of your religious beliefs, you should contact an experienced religious discrimination attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.  

What is a Religious Belief?

The law protects people of all faiths – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and all other religious belief systems – against discriminatory treatment based on those beliefs. California law defines a religious creed as any traditionally recognized religion, as well as any sincere beliefs, observances, or practices that are of similar importance in a person’s life. The California courts have set the following standards to determine whether a belief is a protected religious belief:

  • it must address fundamental and ultimate questions having to do with deep and imponderable matters
  • it must be comprehensive and not consist of an isolated teaching
  • it must have formal, external, or surface signs that can be analogized to traditional religions, such as services, ceremonies, clergy, etc.

Religious Discrimination in the Terms or Conditions of Employment

Employers are prohibited under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) from discriminating against an employee or potential employee in the “terms or conditions of employment” on the basis of an individual’s religious beliefs or practices. “Terms or conditions of employment” means all the aspects of an employee’s job, including:

  • the initial interview
  • hiring
  • the employee’s position and title in the company
  • compensation
  • hours of work and overtime
  • vacation and other types of leave
  • benefits
  • discipline
  • termination

Reasonable Accommodation

The FEHA prohibits employment discrimination because of a conflict between an employee’s religious belief or observance and any job requirement, unless the employer has tried to make reasonable accommodations. For example, reasonable accommodations would include excusing the employee from duties that conflict with religious observances, such as not scheduling the employee for work on his or her Sabbath day or allowing breaks for daily prayer. To establish a case of religious discrimination, an employee must show that:

  • he or she sincerely held a religious belief
  • the employer knew about the belief
  • the belief conflicted with an employment requirement

Employers are not required to accommodate their employee’s religious practices or observances if doing so would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business. “Undue hardship” can be established if the accommodation of a religious practice:

  • is prohibitively expensive
  • will diminish work efficiency
  • will infringe upon other employees’ rights
  • will impair workplace safety
  • will conflict with another law

California Religious Discrimination Attorneys

If you believe that you have been the victim of religious discrimination in the workplace, you should contact The Law Offices of Mayor Joseph L. Alioto and Angela Alioto P.L.C. as soon as possible. Our firm is distinguished by its expertise and national recognition in Civil Rights and Employment Law, and we will be glad to help you with your religious discrimination case.