If your faith is important to you, chances are it touches every aspect of your life, from the way to raise your family to the way you spend your money. Your practice of religion may also influence how you eat, dress and spend your time. While these choices may be a normal part of your life at home, you may struggle to live your faith on the job.
Perhaps your employer or co-workers do not understand your religion, or maybe they believe some negative stereotypes or myths about those of your faith. While everyone has the right to an opinion, the law draws the line at mistreatment of employees specifically because of their religious affiliation. It is not always easy to tell if your employer is discriminating against you based on your faith, and you may have to fight for your right to fair treatment on the job.
Protecting your rights
The Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from treating certain workers unfairly because of their religious beliefs. While religious discrimination generally applies to those who practice an organized religion, such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism, it can also apply to those who hold strong moral beliefs outside these organizations. Likewise, an employer may not discriminate against you because you do not hold the same beliefs your employer does. This means your employer or potential employer may not do any of the following:
- Force you to attend religious services or activities as a requirement for employment
- Prevent you from attending services related to your chosen faith
- Refuse to hire or promote you because of your faith
- Harass you or allow co-workers to harass you
- Transfer you to a less desirable position or demote you
- Give preferential treatment to other employees who espouse the same religious beliefs as the employer
The law also gives you the right to request time off for religious practices, such as praying at certain times or flexing your schedule so you can be off on holy days. Safety issues aside, your employer should also make allowances for religious garb, such as head coverings, long hair or religious symbols, if your beliefs motivate you to wear them.
Religious beliefs are not the same as political persuasions or similar preferences even if you have a devotion to the cause. Additionally, if your accommodations for practicing your faith on the job create a hardship for your employer, you may have a more difficult time proving discrimination.