Last time, we started discussing how even though we would like to think otherwise, many employers will actively consider a person's individual religious beliefs or practices when making employment-related decisions.
However, we also discussed how even though this reality is incredibly distressing, people can still take great comfort from the fact that they are protected from religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
What does Title VII's prohibition against religious discrimination have to say about harassment?
Title VII prohibits any form of harassment based on an individual's religious practices or beliefs. Furthermore, it's not just direct managers who are barred from engaging in this conduct, but also lower-level supervisors, co-workers, and even clients or customers.
It's important to understand, however, that conduct only rises to the level of harassment when it's directly responsible for an adverse employment decision such as demotion or termination, or creates a hostile/offensive work environment. In other words, isolated incidents, thoughtless comments or simple teasing are not considered harassment under the law.
What does Title VII's prohibition against religious discrimination have to say about segregation?
Title VII also bans employers from segregating employees based on their religious practices or beliefs. While this notion might seem inconceivable in today's modern world, it's important to understand that this type of workplace segregation is often incredibly subtle.
For instance, consider a scenario in which a supervisor purposely reassigns an employee who wears certain religious garb to a position that doesn't require interaction with customers due to the unfounded concern that their appearance would somehow harm sales.
We will continue to explore this topic in future posts.
Please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options if you believe that you've been victimized by religious discrimination in the workplace.