Religious discrimination is sadly common in today’s workforce. What is surprising to learn is the shocking statements that are made, and the blatant manner in which some employees still face religious discrimination in the workplace. Both California and federal law protect workers’ rights to a workplace free of such harassment. Continue reading
A company that contracts to provide passenger wheelchair assistance at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City is being accused of religious discrimination. The charge comes from the New York City Human Rights Commission, which says the company, which offers services to 32 airlines and employs some 250 workers at Terminal 4, violated worker rights by not allowing them breaks during which to pray during daily prayers or to eat after fasting for Ramadan.
According to USA Today, supervisors reportedly harassed workers who follow Islam via a radio system whenever the employees requested prayer time breaks. Those messages were reportedly spiteful and included statements like, “We don’t care about Ramadan” and assertions that workers would be given breaks at company-designated times, not worker-designated times.
If the allegations are proven, they would carry a maximum civil penalty of $250,000, on top of compensatory damages that might be paid to workers. The deputy commissioner of the city’s law enforcement bureau that religious discrimination will not be tolerated and that employees of every faith have the right to ask for religious accommodations. Further, no worker should be harassed or otherwise discriminated against for asking to have a break during which to adhere to observance of their faith. Continue reading
Observance of some religious tenants are more visible than others, but none are legally allowed to be used as a basis upon which to deny employment or career advancement. But that’s exactly what is alleged to have happened to a Sikh doctor who alleges a medical organization denied him employment due to his religious appearance.
Plaintiff is a licensed and board-certified physician practicing neurology in Kentucky. He is an observant Sikh who keeps the religiously-mandated beard and turban. He says the hiring process was initiated in 2014. A recruiter praised the doctor’s credentials and experience in a series of telephone interviews. However, after the doctor submitted photographs of himself, along with information about Sikhism, all future interviews were abruptly canceled. The job then was left vacant for an extended time.
In a federal religious discrimination lawsuit filed on his behalf by The Sikh Coalition, plaintiff asserts it was very clear to him he was denied a job at defendant medical group because of both his ethnic background and religious appearance. Continue reading
A Pennsylvania health care provider agreed to settle with six of its former employees who alleged they were fired because they were denied a religious exemption from the company’s policy that required mandatory vaccination. The company agreed to pay $300,000, which will cover back pay and damages to the half dozen workers.
The company required workers to receive a mandatory flu vaccine, starting in 2013. The policy spelled out that workers who declined to receive the vaccine, either due to medical reasons or for religious purposes, could opt to wear a face mask instead while interacting with patients throughout the season when flu is the most prevalent.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed an employment lawsuit on their behalf, asserting that for the 2013-2014 flu season, the workers in question asked for a religious exemption to the policy, and yet were denied their request. Meanwhile, the facility did grant 13 vaccination exemptions that were requested by others on the basis of medical issues. Continue reading
In Sikhism, it’s part of a practice called Kesh that allows one’s hair to grow naturally as a matter of respect for the perfection of God’s creation. The idea is to live the way God made you. It is a tightly-held tenant, one of the five articles of faith of the Sikh religion. When refused to have have it clipped for the drug test, his employer fired him. One plaintiff called the incident, which occurred five years ago, “One of the hardest times of my life.”
Now, he and four other trucker applicants will split a $260,000 damage award to resolve allegations of religious discrimination in employment. Continue reading
A Muslim police officer who is Pakistani-American has filed a federal religious discrimination lawsuit against the New York Police Department, alleging he was wrongly suspended during Ramadan for refusal to shave his one-inch beard.
The 32-year-old officer says the no-beard policy, the subject of his class action employment lawsuit, is an infringement on the rights of some 100 Muslim police officers employed by the NYPD who are simply trying to exercise their freedom of religion without fear of retaliation or discrimination.
Plaintiff is a 10-year veteran on the force, and his primary duties involve handling disciplinary proceedings against fellow officers. He was reportedly suspended without pay. However, in an emergency hearing before a federal district court judge, the department was ordered to continue paying him for at least another three weeks until his next court date, at which time it will be decided whether he will be allowed to come back to work. Continue reading
Dozens of Somali Muslim employees at an equipment manufacturing company in Wisconsin have filed a religious discrimination complaint against their employer, alleging the company stopped allowing prayer breaks at times that are in accordance with their faith. They are accusing the company of discrimination and retaliation on the basis of their faith, national origin and race.
Prior to January of this year, workers were permitted to take breaks for praying so long as they notified their boss, got the Ok and went one-at-a-time. They were able to do so at the times prescribed by religious text. But then, the company introduced a new policy that allows them only two breaks per shift at times that were pre-determined and did not necessarily line up with the times allotted by the Koran. There was also to be no additional accommodations for prayer other than those times.
The workers say they want to keep working at the company, but feel the company no longer wants them there and are taking drastic measures to force them out. Continue reading
Recent tragedies in Paris and San Bernardino have given rise to concerns about a backlash against those who are perceived to be Muslim or about those who are perceived to be Middle Eastern. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has spoken out and released a statement remind employers and employees to be especially aware of potential illegal discriminatory behavior against vulnerable communities.
Employers must be aware of their obligations, not only to avoid discriminating in hiring, firing, promotions, and other terms and conditions of employment but also to make sure that workplaces do not become hostile environments for people who are perceived as Muslims. EEOC’s statement urges employees who have experienced discrimination to report the behavior both to the appropriate officials within their workplaces as well as to report the discriminatory behavior to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
In 2009, two Muslim truck drivers were fired from their jobs after they refused to make liquor deliveries. The truck drivers claimed their termination was a violation of their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the religious beliefs of their employees, unless making such accommodations would impose an undue hardship on the company.
Los Angeles religious discrimination attorneys know workers have the right to continue working even in circumstances where religious beliefs conflict with some job responsibilities. The courts agreed the trucking company could have made accommodations for the Muslim truck drivers in this case. A U.S. District Court Judge ruled in favor of the two truckers when the trucking company admitted liability, and a jury was convened to determine an appropriate damage award. The jury deliberated for just 45 minutes before awarding $240,000 in damages and back pay to the truckers.
Muslim Truck Drivers Awarded Back Pay and Damages
While some aspects of the law and legal doctrine date back more than 1,000 years ago, when empires were fighting each other in Western Europe, a good portion of our laws and our legal system are constantly evolving based upon the will of the people and the actions of legislative bodies.
For this reason, is it important to review all recent changes to the law from time-to-time. A news article from The National Law Review takes a look at recent changes to employment law in the state of California. One of the recent changes was that the word “alien” has been removed from the California Labor Code. Continue reading