Employees must feel safe in the workplace. Anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws aim to help keep employees free from actions that can make them feel unsafe or out of place. One of the statuses protected in the workplace is religion.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides very specific protections for employees based on the right to practice their religion. This law applies to all employers who have 15 or more employees.
Definition of religion
Many people think of the major religions as the only ones that are covered, but this isn't the case. For the purpose of this law, religion includes traditional religions, such as Christianity, Muslim, Islam and others. It also includes religious beliefs that aren't mainstream. These include beliefs that aren't logical to others, those that don't seem reasonable, and ones that are only recognized by a small number of people. It also protects people from being discriminated against because they don't practice any religion or have any religious beliefs.
Accommodations by employers
Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees who notify them of their religious beliefs. These accommodations must not put undue hardship on the company or compromise safety in any way. It is sometimes difficult for employers to prove the type of hardship that they will experience if they meet reasonable accommodations for religious purposes.
Examples of accommodations
People's deeply held beliefs determine what accommodations they might need. A woman who is practicing a certain religion might be unable to wear anything other than a skirt or dress. A man might not be able to shave or trim his facial or head hair. Not being able to work on the Sabbath is another possible accommodation. Atheists might need to be excused from having to say a religious invocation prior to a meeting.
Harassment and discrimination are forbidden
Employers must not discriminate against an employee or potential employee on the basis of religion. Employees who are subjected to forbidden discrimination or harassment can take action against the employer. Having as much detail about the incidents as possible can often help these cases. If you are facing these types of issues at work, keep track of the date, time, description and witnesses so that you can refer to this information later if it becomes necessary.