Religious Discrimination

Discrimination Based on Your Religion is Illegal

The legal right to be free from religious persecution dates back to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which guarantees United States citizens the right to freedom of religion. While this constitutional right applies only to actions by the government, New Jersey and New York law both prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on their religious beliefs or practices. As a result, with limited exceptions your employer cannot treat you less favorably because you are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh or Native America, or because you practice another religion. As a result, you could have a legal claim if your company fired you, demoted you, passed you over for a promotion or took another adverse employment action against you based on your religion.

Religious Harassment Violates Your Legal Rights

Similarly, it is a violation of employment discrimination laws in both New Jersey and New York if you have been harassed at work because of your religious views and affiliations. Religious harassment can include a supervisor or coworker insulting your religious beliefs or practices, or sending you insulting or insensitive emails, jokes or pictures that mock your religion. It also can include giving you less desirable job assignments, excluding you from meetings or ignoring you if it is motivated by your religious beliefs. Harassment due to religion is legally actionable if it is severe or frequent enough to create a hostile work environment.

The Law Defines Religion Broadly

The relevant legal definition of religion is relatively broad. It includes both mainstream and non-traditional religious practices and beliefs. It also protects individuals who do not believe in any religion, such as atheists. In fact, it includes sincerely held moral and ethical beliefs about what is right or wrong as long as they are comparable to traditional religious beliefs.

Religious discrimination is often (but certainly not always) accompanied by other forms of discrimination. For example, it sometimes goes hand-in-hand with race discrimination or national origin discrimination, such as when a supervisor treats an individual negatively because he is both Arabic and Islamic, or because he is Jewish in both culture and religion.

Reasonable Accommodations For Religious Beliefs

In addition to making it illegal to discriminate against employees because of their religion, New Jersey and New York employment discrimination laws also require companies to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s bona fide religious beliefs. For example, you might be entitled to time off or modifications to your work schedule for religious observances or a modification in the company’s dress or grooming policy that is necessary because of your religious beliefs. Additional information is available on our reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs page.

Contact an Experienced Employment Law Attorney

If you have experienced discrimination or harassment based on your religion at work, we can help. Our employment law attorneys are experienced at handling discrimination cases in state and federal court, as well as through arbitration and mediation. To schedule an initial consultation please call our firm in New Jersey at (973) 744-4000.