Articles Posted in religious discrimination

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court recently handed down a unanimous ruling in the case of Groff v. DeJoy, clarifying the extent of an employer’s obligation to accommodate employees’ religious practices. This decision has significant implications for workers across the country, reaffirming their right to freely exercise their religious beliefs in the workplace. In this blog post, we will delve into the details of the case, analyze the Supreme Court’s interpretation, and highlight the importance of religious accommodation rights for employees.

Case Background:

The case involved Gerald Groff, an evangelical Christian and former missionary who worked as a substitute mail carrier for the United States Postal Service (USPS). When the USPS made a deal with Amazon to deliver packages on Sundays, Mr. Groff faced a conflict between his faith and his job. He felt compelled to choose between fulfilling his religious obligations and adhering to his work schedule. After being disciplined for missing work due to religious reasons, Mr. Groff decided to take legal action, claiming a violation of his religious accommodation rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Employers have been required to extend reasonable workplace religious accommodations ever since the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Such requests should only ever be denied when doing so would cause “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” But what does that mean, exactly? Los Angeles religious accommodations at work

Well as our Los Angeles employment discrimination lawyers can explain, since the late 1970s, courts have generally interpreted that to mean any employer effort or cost incurred that exceeded de minimis, or too minor or trivial to merit consideration. Admittedly, that’s a pretty low bar. So it’s long been pretty tough to successfully argue discrimination on the basis of failure to provide religious accommodations. But that’s about to change.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that picked that standard up off the floor. Justices asserted that an undue hardship in these cases should be defined as a burden that is substantial in the overall context of the business. There’s no clear, bright line rule, unfortunately. Determining whether a certain workplace religious accommodation imposed an undue hardship on the employer is a fact-specific determination.

In general, employers seeking to prove the requested accommodation would have caused undue hardship will need to show that it:

  • Is at minimum, something hard to bear.
  • Something that causes or entails suffering or privation/disadvantage.
  • Extreme privation, adversity, or suffering.

Although that’s still pretty broad, the Court made it a point in Goff v. DeJoy to say that in the context of employee rights, undue hardship on an employer needs to amount to something more severe than “a mere burden.” It would have to be unjustifiably excessive.

In other words, it sort of puts the ball back into the employer’s court. If they deny a workplace religious accommodation, the onus will be on them to show why it was not reasonable for their operation to swing. The practical impact of the accommodation would need to be considered in light of the nature, size, and operating cost of the employer. Continue Reading ›

Both California and federal statutes protect employees and job applicants from religious discrimination. Employers are expected to provide reasonable accommodations for the religious beliefs and related practices of workers, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship.religious discrimination lawyer

This may seem pretty straightforward, but as one recent case revealed, religious discrimination can take many different forms. In a federal employment discrimination lawsuit out of New York, an Buddhist airline pilot and recovering alcoholic sued his employer over medical clearance stipulation that required regular attendance at AA meetings.

AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous, and it’s a widely-known 12-step alcohol addiction recovery process that’s been around for 80+ years. Those familiar with the tenets of AA will recall that one of those 12 steps involves faith in a higher power. Specifically, it involves the “belief that a higher power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.” According to, while a significant part of the AA model draws from belief in a higher power, which higher power is not actually defined. Members are encouraged to “define a higher power based on their own personal understanding of the concept.” But as the plaintiff argued in this case, there’s little denying that the entire AA program has strong Christian overtones.

As our Los Angeles employment discrimination attorneys can explain, this aspect of the program can be problematic if/when employers mandate participation in the program as a condition of employment. Continue Reading ›

Recently, California employment law regulators filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against Silicon Valley technology company Cisco, Inc., accusing the multinational firm of failing to intervene in harassment experienced by an Indian-American employee by two of his managers because he’s from a lower Indian caste than they are.Orange County employment discrimination lawyer

The Indian caste system is an ancient one that divide’s the country’s Hindus into four different social hierarchy groups. Privilege is bestowed on the higher castes while prejudice and repression is sanctioned against lower castes. India’s constitution banned caste-based discrimination in 1950, but much like the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, enforcement has been a process.

As our Orange County employment discrimination attorneys can explain, neither Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nor the California Fair Housing and Employment Act bars discrimination on the basis of one’s caste. However, it does protect against discrimination on the basis of religion. What regulators in the case against Cisco are alleging is that the caste system stems from the Hindu faith, and thus this type of discrimination can be covered against discrimination on the basis of religion.

The court’s position on this is being closely watched by many of the hundreds of thousands of Indian immigrants living and working in California. Continue Reading ›

The U.S. Supreme Court is slated to consider how federal employment discrimination laws should be applied to church-run schools. Los Angeles employment discrimination lawyer

Although our Los Angeles employment discrimination attorneys can for certain how the verdict will go, but we do know that in recent cases weighing the church-and-state relationship, the court has tended recently to side with religious groups.

The cases that the court heart last month deal with another aspect of this same divide: The role the government can or should play in the regulation of religious institutions, particularly if they are receiving taxpayer funding. Both cases were filed by teachers in California Catholic schools accused of employment discrimination. The schools insist that the teachers’ positions fall under the court-established “ministerial exception” to job discrimination. The court will be asked to consider just how broad that exception really is and how to balance the competing interests of shielding workers from discrimination and steering clear of meddling in the affairs of religious organizations. Continue Reading ›

How much leeway should religious schools have under the ministerial exception when it comes to hiring and firing teachers whose beliefs don’t align with a church’s? The U.S. Supreme Court has said it will review a federal appellate court’s ruling that would allow two California teachers’ claims of workplace discrimination to move forward. workplace discrimination

Front and center will likely be the landmark 2012 case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Employment Opportunity Division. The SCOTUS ruled that the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment prohibit legal claims against church bodies by their employees who carry out “essential religious functions.” The ministerial exception is supposed to protect church decisions about its leadership from improper governmental influence under the 1st Amendment.

Plaintiff alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act after taking leave to treat her narcolepsy. She was fired for reported insubordination. The line between “minister” and others wasn’t clearly defined, but plaintiff did teach religion and led religious ceremonies. Thus, the court held, the ministerial exemption applied. Continue Reading ›

The City of San Diego is on the hook for $565,000 to a former employee who was reportedly demoted in retaliation for complaining about a supervisor who pressured him to become more religious and chastised him for being being a “non-believer” in the Christian faith. religious discrimination

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, this same supervisor was the subject of complaints from other workers who were urged to attend church services, told non-believers would “go to hell” and expressed her view that those supporting same-sex marriages are not “children of God.”

The city’s lawyers agreed to settle the case rather than appeal an earlier federal jury verdict finding the city was liable for religious discrimination and retaliation, and ordering plaintiff’s damages and an award of attorney’s fees.

Evidence presented at trial showed that plaintiff filed a grievance against his supervisor for this overt religious pressure in the workplace, prompting an internal investigation. That investigation revealed the complaint had merit – but the city never took action against the supervisor. Instead, the city demoted the worker who filed the grievance, and then transferred him from the clerk’s office to the public utilities department. This new job site, he says, was far less desirable. On top of that, he was stripped of his supervisory title and left in a role with less upward mobility potential. Continue Reading ›

Los Angeles religious discrimination attorneys know that the disparate treatment received by Muslims has been on the rise the last two decades. What is also now being reported by the Pew Research Center is that many now also perceive a substantial rise in discrimination against those of the Jewish faith and nationality. religious discrimination employment attorney

The percentage of Americans saying Jewish people face “at least some” discrimination spiked by 20 percent just in the last three years.  It is now up to 64 percent. The share of those saying Jewish people face “a lot” of discrimination at work, in education and housing nearly doubled in that same time frame, going from 13 percent to 24 percent. Although views on this are varying depending on party lines (with Democrats being more likely than Republicans to indicate they’ve seen a spike in discrimination) both sides see a shift.

The survey was conducted this month among more than 1,500 adults, who also stated there is either some or a lot of discrimination in America against those who are Muslim, black, Hispanic, gay, lesbian and women. Muslims in particular are recognized as suffering discrimination, with more than 8 in 10 respondents agreeing they face some discrimination and more than half saying they face a lot. Among the nine groups about which respondents answered, this was the highest.

Jurors awarded $21 million to plaintiff in a religious discrimination lawsuit after she, a devout Christian, was fired from her hotel dishwasher position, in part for refusal to work Sundays. As our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, an employer who fails to make reasonable accommodations for a worker’s sincerely-held beliefs can be found in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. religious discrimination work

At the crux of whether an accommodation is reasonable is if the requested accommodation would impose an undue hardship, defined as a more than minimal burden on the business. A religious practice can be considered “sincerely-held” to a person even if it’s newly-adopted, not observed with consistency or varies from the commonly-followed tenants of the religion.

The 60-year-old mother-of-six plaintiff in this case, in addition to being a dishwasher and immigrant from Haiti, is part of a Catholic missionary church that aids the poor. According to her federal lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Miami, she informed her employer – a posh downtown hotel – that she informed her employer of the need for accommodation when she first started her job, and specifically cited her religious beliefs. Sunday, according to Christian religious texts, is supposed to be a day of rest and devotion to God. Continue Reading ›

It is illegal – in California and across the U.S., per the EEOC –  to discriminate against a job applicant based on their race, color, religion, gender (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy) national origin, age (over 40), disability or genetic information. Yet one of the most frequently-used forums to lure new hires has essentially been facilitating just that, according to critics and a few employment lawsuits filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Communication Workers of America. Los Angeles employment discrimination attorney

Social media giant Facebook has faced years of criticism that it allowed companies advertising job listings to use key categories allowing employers to cherry-pick who their ads would be shown to based on age group, gender and race. The New York Times now reports Facebook has agreed it will stop doing this.

It’s not just prospective employees that have been complaining either. Those advertising credit and housing have also been allowed to screen their ads so that they would only show to a certain subset of social media users. (Housing and credit are also regulated by federal anti-discrimination laws that bar selection of applicants on such bases.) Continue Reading ›

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