California Religious Discrimination Claims on the Uptick

Our Costa Mesa religious discrimination attorneys recently wrote in our Employment Lawyer Blog about the case of a retail clothing store employee who was fired for refusing to remove her hijab, or Muslim religious head covering, at the request of her employer.pray

Now, The Wall Street Journal is exploring the issue of discrimination on the basis of religion in greater depth, saying that the number of such claims has skyrocketed in recent years, as America – and its faithful – have continued to grow more divorce.

Many companies reportedly struggle with how to handle the complexity of how to manage religion as it pertains to the workforce. For example, there are instances in which a seven-day workweek, being embraced by some employers, interferes with the Jewish Sabbath. There are other instances in which religious clothing (such as the hijab) may clash with the dress codes of a given employer. There are other instances in which company policy may interfere with a worker’s belief system. For example, how does an employer charged with issuing gay marriage licenses cope with an employee who says that such actions are against his or her beliefs?

The answers aren’t always simple. However, we have found that many employers, rather than work through some of these complex matters with an open mind and an eye toward the many benefits of diversity, simply retaliate against the worker who is “different,’ many times resulting in a wrongful termination.

Among some of the other cases recently filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

  • A Muslim employee who was fired by his trucking company employee when he refused to deliver alcohol because consumption of the product was against his faith.
  • A Christian employee who opposed biometric head-scanning technology required at his office because of Biblical passages that indicate the antichrist will force people to be imprinted with marks on their foreheads and hands.

According to the EEOC, it received more than 3,800 religious discrimination complaints last year, That was the second-highest year ever recorded, down slightly from the 2011 total of more than 4,150. That was more than double what it was just 15 years ago.

By comparison to racial or sexual discrimination claims, however, religious discrimination claims are relatively fewer and farther between. The latter two totaled more than 30,000 last year alone.

Part of the reason for the uptick in religious discrimination claims may be the fact that many workers are becoming more and more assertive in defense of their faith. For example, while harsh feelings against Muslims lingered with some for many years after 9/11, we have recently surpassed the 12th year since the tragedy. Many people have engaged more openly in discussions about what it means to be a Muslim – and what it does not. And Muslim workers are no longer willing to hide their firmly-held beliefs from the world.

Most companies that face these lawsuits end up settling. In many cases, they are ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars to the worker and often must initiate religious discrimination training. However, the majority are still allowed to deny any wrongdoing.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination on the basis of religion. That includes in decisions relating to hiring, firing and the reasonable accommodation of religious-based requests.

However, the guidelines are far from specific. That means that much of what religious discrimination is – and is not – is still open to interpretation.

If you believe you may have been the target of such action, call us today.

Costa Mesa employment lawsuits can be filed with the help of the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.

Additional Resources:

Religious Discrimination Claims on the Rise, Oct. 27, 2013 By Melanie Trottman, The Wall Street Journal

More Blog Entries:

California Religious Discrimination Case Won by Muslim Plaintiff, Sept. 3, 2013, Orange County Religious Discrimination Lawyer Blog

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