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Workers have protection from religious discrimination

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2024 | Employment Law |

Federal laws and the laws of New York protect workers from religious discrimination.

Under federal law, protection from religious discrimination covers several basic points:

  • Employers cannot refuse to hire, fire or take other adverse action because of an employee’s religion. Adverse action can include re-assigning an employee, deliberately separating an employee from the business’s customers or passing an employee over for promotion in favor of a less qualified candidate.
  • Employers must take steps to protect their workers from harassment. This includes making sure that the employee’s supervisors do not harass workers over their religion. The employer must also take steps to prevent harassment at the hands of colleagues and even customers or members of the public.
  • Employers must provide a reasonable accommodation for their workers’ religious practices. There are limits to what employers must do in this respect since employers do need to be able to run their business operations as they see fit. In most cases, though, religious employees will be entitled to at least some accommodation for their sincere beliefs.
  • Employers may not punish an employee for reporting in good faith a concern about religious harassment through the proper channels or participating in an official investigation.

Staten Island workers and business leaders alike should understand employees’ rights with respect to their religious preferences. Businesses must make sure they respect these rights, or else employees can seek legal relief.  Businesses should also be aware that New York’s laws may give workers additional protections.

Rules about discrimination can get tricky for religious organizations

Applying religious discrimination laws is not always easy. The facts and evidence can be very different from one case to the next. There are also exceptions to the laws that apply in some situations.

To give one example, religious organizations need to be aware that rules regarding religious discrimination are a bit different for them.

Specifically, religious organizations may have some leeway to favor employees belonging to their organization and to insist on the organization’s beliefs and practices.

However, there are limits to this exception, and whether the exception applies may not always be evident. Often, the scope of the exception depends on the circumstances.