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Religious discrimination in the workplace: does it still exist?

Most say the greatest characteristic about the American people is our diversity -- our ability to be so different and yet so united. Most believe our differences make us stronger. However, there are still instances of religious discrimination in the workplace as seen in California's most recent report as listed in the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The report covers instances of hostile work environments, alleging harassment about terrorism, politics or religion. The report also covers instances of retaliation, wrongful termination and failure to accommodate religious practices. There are several Islamic practices that are outside of typical American cultures. Practices include growing facial hair, wearing hijab or accommodating work schedules around religious days like Friday. There were a reported 933 complaints last year to instances related to these and others.

California adopted a law in 2012 prohibiting religious discrimination in the workplace in addition to the federal regulations in place. The California law is stricter than the federal law, and it is called the California Workplace Religious Freedom Act. This law requires that an employer must reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs and observances of an employee, unless doing so would cause "undue hardship." The threshold for undue hardship in California is higher than federal regulations that require employers to show "de minimis" or moderate hardship.

In conclusion, it appears that complaints related to religious discrimination in the workplace are on the rise. This is despite the stricter compliance law passed in 2012. It is important that workers understand their religious freedoms and what those freedoms mean in the workplace. It is possible that religion freedoms may have been violated by the workplace if a person was discriminated against based on their religious beliefs.

Source:, "Are California's Laws Prohibiting Workplace Religious Discrimination Enough?" Sarah Parvini, Sept. 15, 2014

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Law Offices of Allan A. Sigel, P.C.

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