Religious Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the main source of federal law dealing with the issue of religious discrimination. Although this statute does not provide as stringent of protection to employees as California’s FEHA Act, still, Title VII is looked to by many courts as the original source of anti-discrimination laws. Title VII provides that:

  • An employer should not treat any employee less favorably or more favorably due to that employee’s religious beliefs.

  • An employee should not be forced to take part in religious activities as a condition of employment just as he/she cannot be forced to forgo certain religious activities as a condition of employment.

  • An employer faced with a request from an employee to accommodate that employee’s religious beliefs must reasonably accommodate the employees' sincerely held religious practices. The exception being that if such accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s legitimate business interests. Examples of hardship have been found to be: more than ordinary administrative costs, violations of other employees’ job, or affects workplace safety.

Title VII just like FEHA makes it unlawful to retaliate against an employee for opposing or complaining of employment practices that discriminate based on religion or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

An aggrieved employee can either file his/her claim with the EEOC and ask that agency to pursue the claim for him/her, or hire a private attorney to represent him/her after filing of the claim. There are strict timelines as to when the claim needs to be filed in order to avoid having the claim denied for being untimely. Employees are encouraged to contact the attorneys at the Employment Law Team ™ or EEOC so as to protect their rights. Following is the link to EEOC which discusses the claim filing procedure: http://www.eeoc.gov/charge/overview_charge_filing.html.

Among the major differences between Title VII and FEHA are:

  1. FEHA defines “undue hardship” as requiring “significant difficulty or expense” measured by evaluating the cost of accommodation against the employer’s resources. California Coder of Regulation 2 C.C.R § 7293.3, which is relied on by courts that interpret FEHA provides that the burden is on the employer to establish that accommodating an employee with regards to her or his religious accommodations would cause “undue hardship.” Title VII and cases interpreting it; however, seem to adopt a very low standard for what the employers need to establish to show “undue hardship.” Under Title VII so long as the employer can show some minimum cost to accommodate “undue hardship” will be established.

  2. FEHA places the burden on the employer to show that it has explored any available reasonable alternative means of accommodating the religious observance or belief. Cal. Gov. Code § 12940(1.) Title VII and its cases however, seem to make the duty a bilateral process that requires the employee and employer both to try to find the right accommodation.

  3. Perhaps the biggest difference between FEHA and Title VII has to do with Title VII’s requirement of actual or threatened discipline if the employee does not fulfill the job duty which has caused a dispute involving the employee’s religion while FEHA merely requires a conflict between the religious belief and the employment requirement. Therefore, an employee who agrees to a compromise can still pursue a claim under FEHA but not Title VII.

Some of the more well known cases dealing with religious accommodation involve: a Sikh man’s inability to part take in drills which required him to wear a gas mask received a favorable ruling in his quest to be a correctional officer; a Jewish employee who was fired for not wanting to work on Passover received a favorable ruling; a Jehovah’s witness employee prevailed in suit to attend annual religious festivals and a Seventh-day Adventist asking to have Saturday’s off while willing to work to on other less desirable shifts prevailed in his case.

Our Orange County and Los Angeles religious discrimination and religious right attorneys can help evaluate your case and decide on what the best approach to your case may be. Contact us at 1-877-529-4545 or www.employmentlawteam.com


If you face a legal question related to labor and or employment law be it a federal or state issue in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, Alameda county, San Francisco county or San Diego County call 888-529-2188 for a free consultation with an attorney well versed in the areas of: labor law, employment law, overtime laws, sexual harassment laws, wrongful termination, sexual discrimination laws and disability laws.