Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not just folks who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others that have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.
Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone differently because that man or woman is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion.
In a 1979 consultation on the issue, the United States Commission on Civil Rights defined religious discrimination in relation to the civil rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Whereas religious civil liberties, like the right to hold or not to hold a religious belief, are Vital for Freedom of Religion (in America secured by the First Amendment),
However, cases of religious discrimination may also be caused by an interference of the spiritual sphere with different spheres of people that are regulated by law. Although e.g. in America the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, in Reynolds v. United States the U.S. supreme court decided that religious duty wasn’t a suitable defense to a criminal indictment. In this specific case a law against bigamy was not considered to be discriminating against Mormons, who stopped practicing Polygamy in 1890
The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. It also includes treating people differently in their employment because of their lack of religious belief or practice. The law protects not only folks who belong to traditional organized religions like the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or other faiths, but all folks who have sincerely held religious, moral, or moral beliefs.
Please look at some kind of religious discrimination:
1- Religious Dress at Work
Federal law prohibits employers with at least 15 employees, as well as employment agencies, unions, and national government agencies, from discriminating in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Additionally, it prohibits retaliation against individuals who complain of discrimination or take part in an EEO investigation.
The law prohibits among other things:
- Disparate treatment based on religion in recruitment, hiring, promotion, benefits, training, job duties, termination, or any other aspect of employment.
Employers may not treat employees or applicants differently concerning any aspect of employment (such as recruitment, hiring, assignments, discipline, promotion, and benefits) based on their religious beliefs or practices. For example, an employer may not deny an experienced applicant in favor of a less qualified applicant because of the less qualified applicant’s “preferable” religious practices.
- Office or job segregation based on religion;
- Workplace harassment based on faith;
- Retaliation for requesting an accommodation (whether or not allowed), for filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC, for testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner in an EEOC investigation or EEO proceeding, or for opposing discrimination.
The federal law applies to any practice that is motivated by a religious belief, even though other people can engage in the same practice for secular reasons.  However, if a dress or grooming clinic is a personal preference, as an instance, where it is worn for fashion rather than for religious reasons, it does not come under Title VII’s religion protections.
2- Direct religious discrimination
Direct religious discrimination is when an employer treats someone less favorably than other workers because of their religion.
The plainest type of direct discrimination is when an employer takes an unfair action against an employee based on their religion. Common examples include:
- Dismissing an employee because of their religion
- Deciding to not hire an applicant because of their religion
- Paying an employee less due to the faith
- However, employers will also be responsible for forms of direct religious discrimination committed by their employees.
3- Indirect religious discrimination
When an employer sets rules that apply to everyone, but which unfairly disadvantage employees with certain religions or beliefs.
For example, an employer might indirectly discriminate by:
- Requiring a dress code that excludes individuals who use items of clothing as part of their religion
- Unfairly setting work schedules that prevent workers taking time off for religious observance
- Unfairly banning sporting certain religious items, like the symbolic bracelet worn by Sikh men
It’s lawful to have rules at work, even the ones that may unintentionally exclude certain faiths — provided that they are reasonable and justifiable.
Bullying an employee at work due to their religion is another form of direct discrimination, usually called harassment.
Any behavior that the employee finds distressing, humiliating, or offensive can be considered harassment at employment tribunal — whether it’s intentional or accidental.
Employers might not subject employees to harassment because of their religious beliefs or practices. Harassment occurs when an employee is: (1) required or coerced to abandon, change, or adopt a religious practice as a condition of employment, or (2) subjected to undesirable statements or behavior that is based on faith and is so severe or pervasive that the individual being harassed reasonably finds the work environment to be hostile or abusive.
Employees that are treated unfairly because of their faith have a right to complain, raise a grievance, or make a claim at an employment tribunal. Yet in many cases, this contributes to additional ill-treatment from their employer or colleagues. The employee might be ignored, denied opportunities, or unfairly disciplined for speaking out.
Such activities constitute victimization, another kind of direct discrimination that is illegal under the Equality Act.
Employers must reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practices — or lack thereof — provided that the accommodation will not impose an undue hardship on the employer.
Examples of a protected activity include (but aren’t limited to) opposing a practice the employee reasonably believes to be discriminatory, filing an EEOC charge, testifying in an EEOC investigation, and asking a religious accommodation.
If you believe you have been discriminated in the workplace because of your religion, you should call an experienced religious discrimination lawyer for a free consultation.