California offers employees some of the strongest protections in the United States regarding equal pay. Under California law, employers cannot pay you less than other employees doing similar jobs based on your race, gender, or religion. Any unfavorable treatment given to an employee because of their faith falls under the category of workplace religious discrimination.
If you believe your employer is underpaying or mistreating you because of your religion, a religious discrimination attorney can help you pursue your right to fair and equal job compensation.
What is Protected Under Religious Discrimination?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency in charge of administering and enforcing civil rights laws against discrimination in the workplace, including religious discrimination. The EEOC was established in 1965 following the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect employees in the private and public sectors.
Under Title VII in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, employers with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate in employment based on an employee’s religious beliefs. This law applies to employment agencies and unions as well as traditional businesses. Under Title VII, the following are prohibited:
- Treating employees or job applicants differently in any aspect of employment based on their religious practices or beliefs. This includes recruitment and hiring, work assignments, disciplining, promotions, and benefits.
- Harassing employees because of their religious practices or beliefs or the beliefs of their families, friends, or associates.
- Refusing to accommodate a reasonable employee request that pertains to the employee’s religious practices or beliefs. This may include scheduling changes to avoid working on religious holidays, job reassignments, and reasonable modifications to workplace practices.
- Retaliating against an employee or job applicant who has participated in a protected activity like filing an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) charge, testifying as a witness in another person’s EEO investigation, or complaining to HR about perceived religious discrimination.
California’s Fair Pay Act
California has a long history of protecting employees from religious discrimination in the workplace. The Golden State passed its first law protecting employees from discrimination in 1949, 15 years before the Civil Rights Act provided these rights nationwide.
In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown enacted the California Fair Pay Act. Under the Fair Pay Act, employees can file a claim against their employer if they are doing “substantially similar work” as another worker at the same company but receiving less payment. The employees must have reason to believe the pay disparity is due to their religion, gender, or race.
Religious discrimination cases are often highly subjective, and without the help of a lawyer, it can be difficult to prove that a pay disparity is directly due to religious discrimination. Your employer may argue that there is a legitimate reason that they are paying you less than another employee, like differences in seniority, merit, or productivity level.
A religious discrimination lawyer can help you build a solid claim that proves that you are experiencing religious discrimination.
What Qualifies as Religious Harassment?
Religious harassment occurs when others make negative or offensive remarks about your faith or religious practices.
Religious harassment in violation of Title VII happens when:
- Employees are required or coerced into abandoning, altering, or adopting a given religious practice as a condition of employment.
- Employees are subjected to unwelcome conduct or statements based on religion so severe that the employee can reasonably claim that their work environment is abusive or hostile.
Workplace harassment can reduce your productivity at work and lead to severe emotional distress. However, if you follow the correct procedure and inform your employer about workplace harassment, they have a legal duty to correct the situation and prevent future persecution.
If you wish to seek compensation for religious harassment, there are religious discrimination lawyers who can help you build your religious harassment case.
What Are Examples of Religious Discrimination?
Religious discrimination can be easy to notice in the form of a targeted insult from a coworker about your religious practice. However, more subtle workplace practices may qualify as religious discrimination and can feel just as insulting and disrespectful as blatant abuse.
These religious discrimination examples can help you determine if you are experiencing religious discrimination at work:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 segregation at work due to a person’s religion. Your employer cannot give or keep you from specific workplace tasks because of your religious preferences or lack thereof.
For example, an employer cannot relegate an employee to a non-customer-facing position because of actual or assumed customer preference.
Lack of Reasonable Accommodation
Religious discrimination laws require employers to reasonably accommodate their employees’ religious beliefs and practices unless the accommodation would cause more than a minimal burden on business operations. Reasonable accommodations include flexible scheduling, changing job assignments, voluntary shift swaps or substitutions, and modifications to workplace policies.
For example, a Catholic employee may require a scheduling change to attend Good Friday services, or a Muslim employee may need to create a break schedule for daily prayers.
Dress and Grooming Policy
Employers must accommodate dress and grooming practices their employees follow for religious reasons, as long as they do not cause undue hardship to business operations.
This policy applies to head coverings or religious dress (like the Jewish yarmulke or Muslim headscarf), certain hairstyles, or ways of wearing facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh beard and uncut hair). It includes religious prohibitions against wearing certain clothes like pants, shorts, or miniskirts.
If you require a dress or grooming accommodation for religious reasons, your employer must respect your request as long as it doesn’t pose an undue hardship. An accommodation can cause undue hardship for a business if it compromises workplace safety, lowers efficiency, infringes on other employees’ rights, requires other employees to perform more hazardous or demanding work than usual, or is excessively costly.
Discrimination Based on Lack of Religion
Just as an employer cannot discriminate against any employee based on religious preference, an employer cannot force employees to participate in a religious activity as a condition of employment.
For example, an atheist employee may not wish to participate in a religious invocation at the beginning of staff meetings. If an employer requires the employee to participate, the employee can claim religious discrimination at work.
These examples of religious discrimination cover the more common ways employers discriminate, but if your situation doesn’t fall into one of these categories, it may still qualify as religious discrimination. Speak to a religious discrimination lawyer who can help you determine your options.
How Berberian Ain LLP Can Help
The employment law firm of Berberian Ain LLP has experience handling every aspect of religious discrimination cases. We help you understand the religious discrimination facts vital to building your case and gather evidence to help you seek appropriate compensation from your employer for the religious harassment you suffered.
Religious discrimination lawsuits are complex and challenging to undertake without help. Contact a lawyer for religious discrimination who knows what it takes to build a winning case. Contact us today so we can review your case and help you achieve justice.