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TITLE VII OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT AND RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION

TITLE VII OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT AND RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin.   The law was later amended to include protection on the basis of pregnancy, age and disability.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that oversees the enforcement and investigation of Title VII violations.  Recently, the EEOC issued a Fact Sheet on the application of the Title VII religious discrimination guidelines for employees who wear religious garb in the workplace.  For more information see, http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs_religious_garb_grooming.cfm.

Highlights of the EEOC’s Fact Sheet include:

  • Title VII prohibits disparate treatment based on religious belief or practice, or lack thereof. With the exception of employers that are religious organizations as defined under Title VII, an employer must not exclude someone from a job based on discriminatory religious preferences, whether its own or those of customers, clients, or co-workers. Title VII also prohibits discrimination against people because they have no religious beliefs. Customer preference is not a defense to a claim of discrimination.
  • Title VII also prohibits workplace or job segregation based on religion (including religious garb and grooming practices), such as assigning an employee to a non-customer contact position because of actual or assumed customer preference.
  • Title VII requires an employer, once on notice that a religious accommodation is needed for sincerely held religious beliefs or practices, to make an exception to dress and grooming requirements or preferences, unless it would pose an undue hardship.
    • Requiring an employee’s religious garb, marking, or article of faith to be covered is not a reasonable accommodation if that would violate the employee’s religious beliefs.
    • An employer may bar an employee’s religious dress or grooming practice based on workplace safety, security, or health concerns only if the circumstances actually pose an undue hardship on the operation of the business, and not because the employer simply assumes that the accommodation would pose an undue hardship.
    • When an exception is made as a religious accommodation, the employer may still refuse to allow exceptions sought by other employees for secular reasons.
    • Neither co-worker disgruntlement nor customer preference constitutes undue hardship.
    • It is advisable in all instances for employers to make a case-by-case determination of any requested religious exceptions, and to train managers accordingly.
  • Title VII prohibits retaliation by an employer because an individual has engaged in protected activity under the statute, which includes requesting religious accommodation. Protected activity may also include opposing a practice the employee reasonably believes is made unlawful by one of the employment discrimination statutes, or filing a charge, testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the statute.
  • Title VII prohibits workplace harassment based on religion, which may occur when an employee is required or coerced to abandon, alter, or adopt a religious practice as a condition of employment, or for example, when an employee is subjected to unwelcome remarks or conduct based on religion.

 

If you believe that you were a victim of religious discrimination or discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, pregnancy, age or disability, it is important that you file a claim with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the EEOC within 180 days from the date of the discriminatory act to assure that you preserve all rights that you may have.  Our law firm represent employees in these claims.

Ira H. Weinstock, P.C. is located in Harrisburg, PA and serves clients in and around Southeast Pennsylvania. Contact our experienced Harrisburg attorneys today, we can travel if necessary.

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