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Religious Discrimination

Fort Worth Employment Attorney :: Dallas Employment Attorney :: Wrongful Termination Lawyer

Religious discrimination is an illegal form of discrimination against employees and job applicants based upon the individual’s religious beliefs. Religious discrimination in the workplace is prohibited under both Title VII and Texas employment law. Religion discrimination can occur because the employee or job applicant has the “wrong” religious belief, does not have the “right” religious belief. It can occur purely on the basis of the employee’s or applicant’s belief or because the employee or applicant has requested a work accommodation for a religious practice, such as time off from work or a modification of the dress code. An employment lawyer in Dallas and Fort Worth can help protect your rights against religious discrimination.

How religious discrimination occurs in the workplace

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Religious discrimination is prohibited in any part of the employment relationship, from hiring practices through termination of employment. Religious discrimination is prohibited when it has a negative effect on obtaining or keeping a job as well as the terms and conditions of employment while you are employed. Common ways religious discrimination can occur:

  • Job advertisements
  • Recruiting
  • Application processes and applicant screening
  • Interviews
  • Pre-employment inquires
  • Job referrals
  • Job assignments and promotions
  • Compensation (both pay and benefits)
  • Merit reviews, performance evaluation and raises
  • Disciplinary practices
  • Terminations, layoffs and reductions in force (RIF)
  • Harassment
  • Refusing a reasonable accommodation
  • Forced participation in religious practices

Common religious discrimination claims

Religious discrimination most commonly arises during the employment relationship as the employee’s religious beliefs are brought up through casual conversation or a formal work issue. The employee may be mistreated because he or she does not share the same beliefs as others in the office, particularly management, or requires certain work accommodations for religious practices that others in the office do not require. Additionally, the employee may then suffer negative acts from management because of the beliefs, suffer harassment, or have a reasonable accommodation denied.

The employee may suffer negative employment acts from a supervisor or any level of management on the basis of his or her beliefs. These acts may negatively affect any term or condition of employment, giving rise to a claim of religious discrimination. Employers are not permitted to treat an employee less favorably due to his or her beliefs, nor can the employer treat other employees more favorably due to their beliefs.

Harassment

An employee may also have a claim of religious discrimination when harassment occurs on the basis of his or her beliefs. Harassment occurs when the workplace becomes hostile through the acts of coworkers or management. Harassment can occur through words, pictures, emails, job assignments, threats and even physical contact. It becomes actionable as discrimination when it begins to negatively affect your job. It is always actionable when management is perpetrating the harassment. If it is your co-workers, it becomes actionable when management has a reasonable opportunity to stop the harassment but fails to do so.

Reasonable accommodations

Both federal and state law require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious practices when the employee requests it. This might be a schedule change to accommodate a religious holiday or service or a dress code modification to permit religious attire in the workplace. An employer may only refuse an accommodation if it would cause an undue hardship. For religious discrimination purposes, the undue hardship is an easy standard for the employer to meet but slight schedule alterations or dress code modifications normally do not create an undue hardship. If the employer permits the accommodation, the employee should be alert for any retaliation for the accommodation, such as reduced or changed job duties, following the accommodation.

Retaliation

Your employer may also retaliate against you for bringing claims of religious discrimination to the attention of management, HR, or a government agency. This retaliation is unlawful and creates an independent claim against your employer. Your right to work free from religious discrimination includes the right to report unlawful discrimination and take steps to protect your rights.

Remedies for religious discrimination

The law provides remedies to make a victim of religious discrimination whole. These remedies can range from requiring the employer to hire/reinstate/promote/etc. to paying for economic losses, such as lost wages while you try to find a new job. The specific remedies pursued on a religious discrimination claim depend upon the what negative effects you suffered and what is best for you. If the company was very hostile towards you then it may not make sense to ask the court to reinstate you to your job and instead ask for the company to pay your lost wages. Determining the right course of action is something we will discuss together when you hire The Kielich Law Firm to represent your religious discrimination claim.

Handling religious discrimination claims in Texas

Religious discrimination claims follow the same process as other employment discrimination claims, which is a complex process. Religious discrimination claims begin with a charge filed with the federal (EEOC) and state (TWC) discrimination agencies who will investigate your claims of discrimination. The employee must file the charge within a limited period of time after the discrimination occurred to preserve your claims.

During the investigation there may be mediation between you and your employer. If there is a finding of discrimination one of the government agencies may decide to file suit against your employer and we will work jointly to represent your claims. If neither government agency decides it has enough information to find discrimination occurred then we will pursue litigation on our own. From there, the case may settle or go to trial.

All employment discrimination claims are challenging claims for many reasons. The employer controls most of the information that might directly prove discrimination. Often, there is no direct evidence (no smoking gun) of discrimination. Therefore the case must be proven by indirect or circumstantial evidence. Additionally, for accommodation claims there is an additional dispute whether the accommodation was an undue hardship to the employer.

How The Kielich Law Firm can help

It is important to act quickly on your claims once you begin to experience discrimination in the workplace. The Kielich Law Firm handles all forms of employment discrimination claims and I am ready to work with you to counsel you on the steps you need to take and represent your claims before the administrative agencies and the courts. Religious discrimination claims are complex and require the expertise I can provide to represent your claims and fight for the fair treatment you deserve. Contact my office today or visit my blog for more information.

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