Dozens or hundreds of different religions are represented in Rhode Island workplaces. This can lead to problems ranging from simple misunderstandings to discriminatory behavior. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reported that the number of workplace complaints alleging religious discrimination doubled between 1997 and 2015. The First Amendment prohibits religious discrimination by the government, but private causes of action must be brought under state or federal statutes.
Religious discrimination under Title VII
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for businesses with 15 or more employees to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin or religion. The Act prohibits workplace discrimination or harassment based on religious practices or beliefs. The Act also requires the provision of religious accommodations except where such accommodations would be an undue burden on the business and prohibits retaliation against people who are asserting their rights. Title VII and other federal laws provide protection to individuals practicing recognized religions as well as non-traditional religions and those with atheistic beliefs.
Religious accommodation under Title VII
The phrase religious accommodation refers to an adjustment of the workplace environment to allow a worker to comply with religious beliefs. Accommodations are necessary when religious beliefs, practices or observances conflict with employment. Accommodations are required unless the employer can demonstrate that they would cause an undue hardship. Typical areas of accommodation include schedules, religious holidays and religious dress.
Religious discrimination and employer liability
Employers are liable when religious discrimination leads to a tangible action, like a firing, failure to promote or failure to hire. Employers may also be liable in cases where religious discrimination leads to a hostile work environment. In the latter case, liability may be avoided if the employer exercised reasonable care to correct or prevent harassment or the victim failed unreasonably to make use of the preventive opportunities. Generally speaking, people have the right to work at their jobs and also practice their religions and Title VII may provide rights of action if they’re not allowed to do so.