You cannot be discriminated against in the workplace because of your religion

             We have written several posting about age discrimination  and pregnancy discrimination.  But Federal and many state laws also prohibit employers from discriminating against employees because of their religion.

             This means that an employer cannot make any decisions based on an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, nor can an employer treat an employee differently because of their religious beliefs. For example, an employer may not refuse to hire individuals of a certain religion, may not impose stricter promotion requirements for persons of a certain religion and may not impose more or different work requirements on an employee because of their religious beliefs or practices.

             Recently, a religious discrimination lawsuit was filed against the McKinsey & Co. by a former employee who says he was fired after going to the police to complain about threats he received for going to the company’s Human Resources department.  In the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that problems began when he wore a yarmulke to work as an expression of his practice of “theosophy”, a movement that finds truth in all religions.  The plaintiff says he was subjected to derogatory and humiliating comments from his co-workers and supervisors including accusations he wasn’t “a real Jew,” being told to “Take that yarmulke off! You’re creeping me out,” and “you can’t be Jewish if you’re Italian.”

            In another case, Taco Bell was sued by the EEOC for terminating an employee who refused to cut his hair because of his Nazirite religious beliefs.  According to the complaint, the employee is a practicing Nazirite who, in keeping with his religious beliefs, has not cut his hair since he was 15 years old.  The plaintiff was informed, that he unless he cuts his hair, he could not longer work at the restaurant.

            Federal and state laws seek to prevent discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability and age.  There is also a growing body of law that seeks to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

            Discrimination can come in many ways and some acts that have been found to be discriminatory and which are legally prohibited include discriminatory bias in: promoting, transferring, recalling and laying off workers; compensating, assigning and classifying employees; dispensing fringe benefits; hiring and/or firing employees; recruiting workers and posting job openings; testing; training and apprenticeship programs; retaliation; pay, retirement and disability leave; and various types of harassment.

Do you think you have been discriminated against?  Please tell me your story. 

Abbey Spanier, LLP is located in New York City, is a well recognized national class action and complex litigation law firm.