While various religions have existed for centuries, some people were not always as accepting of faiths other than their own. Fortunately, these religions are gaining acceptance among a growing number of people today. This progressive acceptance of others’ choices to practice or not practice a belief is always welcome and appreciated. Nonetheless, unfortunate instances of religious discrimination continue to occur.
Religious discrimination, whether intentional or unintentional, occurs on a daily basis—for example, being denied service in a restaurant or an interview opportunity due to one’s religion.
Beliefs and religious practices have no bearing on an individual’s ability to complete tasks and perform job-related activities competently. Learn more about workplace religious discrimination and the available protections to address the issue.
Discrimination on the basis of religion can take many forms. It refers to how employers, coworkers, clients, or customers treat employees differently—unfairly and unequally—based on their religious beliefs or practices, or lack thereof, in the workplace. This includes changes to a workplace rule or policy as a result of an employee’s religious beliefs and practices. This irrational behavior is illegal.
As an employee, you should become familiar with and knowledgeable about your legal rights, including which civil rights laws are being violated. There are rules and regulations in place to safeguard you against this type of treatment in the workplace.
Religion is defined in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as “all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.” This principle applies to all Christian denominations as well as other faiths such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Employers are prohibited from violating employees’ rights to express their held beliefs in the workplace, regardless of their religion.
In 1993, the United States Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prohibits federal agencies, departments, and any State from enacting legislation that restricts an individual’s religious freedom unless the “application of the burden” is for the advancement of governmental interests.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, approximately 82 percent of American adults believe Muslims face at least some discrimination in the United States in 2019; 56 percent believe Muslims face severe discrimination.
Numerous Muslims in the United States stated that they have faced discrimination in settings other than the workplace. According to a different study, Islamophobia is increasing in America, with reports of hate mail, anti-Muslim graffiti, and telephone death threats in the Chicago area.
More countries prohibit women from wearing religious clothing or symbols than they do from dressing in a particular manner.
In some parts of the world, women are prohibited from wearing hijabs in the workplace, including those in the public sector, such as nurses and front-line military personnel.
According to a study, the vast majority of pagans (Wiccans, Druids, shamanists, and followers of African traditional religions) express anxiety about their religious beliefs and practices being disclosed at work.
This anxiety or fear is prevalent among individuals who conceal their beliefs (or non-beliefs) in the workplace, as it is believed that they will face less harassment or bullying in this manner.
According to the study, only 19.8 percent of Muslims aged 16 to 74 were in full-time employment, compared to 34.9 percent of the general population in the United Kingdom.
This demonstrates that Muslim men and women are denied equal opportunities or are disadvantaged in the workplace as a result of Islamophobia. Additionally, the research revealed that minority ethnic-sounding names have a lower likelihood of being offered an interview, and young Muslims frequently fear harassment and being expected to work “ten times as hard” as their white counterparts.
According to research, atheists and agnostics face and have reported harassment in the form of belief imposition.
Imposition of beliefs is a form of harassment in which organizational leaders require or encourage employees to participate in religious practices regardless of their faith—in particular, by requiring or encouraging employees to attend religious services or prayers.
To identify and call out these discriminatory behaviors, it is necessary to first understand their various manifestations.
This is an instance of direct religious discrimination—treating an employee less favorably or unequally than others on the basis of his or her religious background. Employers or government agencies are prohibited from firing employees for taking a day off to observe a religious event under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Assume your employer declines to promote you because they perceive your daily prayers as impeding your ability to work efficiently. In that case, it constitutes discrimination because it contributes to the creation of a hostile work environment. This means they make employment decisions without regard for an individual’s work performance or capabilities.
A prime example of this is receiving significantly less compensation than a white employee with comparable experience and title. This also includes being denied the same benefits as other employees solely due to religious beliefs and practices.
This could be verbal (e.g., offensive remarks, the use of information to incite hatred, or being called names due to dress code violations) or physical (e.g., religiously motivated attacks that physically hurts an individual).
When employers implement policies that apply to everyone but disregard employees’ religious beliefs and practices, they are committing indirect discrimination against those employees. This could include prohibiting the wearing of specific religious clothing or items, such as the hijab worn by Muslim women or the Sikh men’s symbolic bracelet.
Additionally, this is an instance of indirect religious discrimination. By creating work schedules that are inequitable to some employees or prevent them from taking time for religious observance, they are unintentionally excluded due to their faiths.
If you or someone else has been subjected to workplace discrimination, you can take the necessary steps to address the situation appropriately.
If and when you encounter direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of your faith, bring it to the individual’s attention. Educate them about your civil rights and make it clear that this is not a trivial matter. Allow it to pass you by. Otherwise, this type of behavior will persist.
Inform the offending party’s supervisor of the unruly behavior, hostile actions, or verbal attacks. Arrange a meeting with their immediate supervisor to discuss the situation and put an end to their objectionable behavior.
You can file a complaint against the individual to demonstrate to them and the rest of the organization that religious discrimination is a serious issue that must be addressed. When employees are aware that there is an established procedure for reporting such harassment, they are less likely to engage in discriminatory behavior toward others.
You can retain the services of an attorney to assist you in defending your civil rights and holding the harasser accountable for the undue hardship and emotional or physical toll their discriminatory actions have imposed on you.
Businesses are responsible for establishing rules and policies that are inclusive of people of all backgrounds and faiths. Keep in mind that there is a constitution in place that protects you in the workplace, including laws allowing you to freely express your religious beliefs and expression.