Religious Accommodations in the Workplace

Understanding Religious Accomodations in the Workplace
Employees have a right to religious accommodations in the workplace under federal law.

Understanding your religious rights at work is key to knowing whether you may be facing religious discrimination. It is not uncommon for employers to refuse religious accommodations in the workplace. If this has happened to you, or if you have been disparately treated because of your religion, you may have a case against your employer.

What Is A Religious Accommodation in the Workplace?

According to the Department of Labor, religious accommodation in the workplace is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow an employee or applicant to practice his or her religion. The need for an employee for religious accommodation may arise when their beliefs, practices, or observances conflict with a specific duty (or duties) or a requirement of the position. There are religious protections for employees during the application/hiring process as well.

Religious accommodations in the workplace often relate to:

  • Work schedules
  • Grooming
  • Dress
  • Religious Expression

Under the law, if the accommodation does not pose an “undue hardship” to the employer, the request for the accommodation should be granted. A religious accommodation could be considered an undue hardship if it infringes upon the rights of other employees, compromises workplace safety, decreases efficiency in the workplace, or is too costly. If the employer refuses a religious accommodation citing undue hardship due to cost, they will have to effectively show that granting the request would be greater than a de minimus (minimal impact) on the company.

For example, if an individual needs a work schedule accommodation to observe a religious holiday or attend religious services, which does not pose an undue hardship to the company, then the request should be granted. If you are refused or punished in another way – such as being terminated or having your hours cut at work, this could amount to religious discrimination.

Are Employers In Florida Required To Accommodate Religious Beliefs?

Most employers in Florida are required to provide religious accommodations in the workplace, which includes industries across the private and public sectors. If you work in a very small company, your employer is typically not required to comply. The standard under the Florida Civil Rights Act is “15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the preceding calendar year.” Local ordinances may extend protection to employees of smaller companies.

What Laws Protect Employees From Religious Discrimination In The Workplace?

The Florida Civil Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964 protect employees from religious discrimination in the workplace due to their “religious beliefs,” which includes all aspects of employment and the hiring process. Religious beliefs, as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), include “theistic beliefs (i.e., those that include a belief in God) as well as non-theistic moral or ethical beliefs about right and wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.” Title VII also includes protections for an employee against discrimination if they are married to a person of a certain religion or because of their connection to a particular religious group.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has a broad definition of “religion,” including traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It also includes religious beliefs that are uncommon, new, not part of a formal sect or church, or only held by a small number of people.

Some examples of religious discrimination or harassment in the workplace may include:

  • Refusing to grant a religious accommodation that does not impose an undue hardship on the company
  • Frequent or severe offensive comments or bullying behavior that constitutes a hostile work environment for the employee
  • Firing an employee due to their religious beliefs
  • Reducing hours or demoting an employee due to their religious beliefs
  • Imposing additional duties that are not (or have not been) part of their job due to religious beliefs or religious accommodations, such as heavy lifting

Harassment due to an individual’s religion may come from a direct supervisor, a supervisor in another department, a co-worker, and those not considered employees, such as a contractor or client.

What To Do If Facing Religious Discrimination In The Workplace

Religious discrimination in the workplace is not only wrong – it is illegal. Your religious rights at work should be upheld, and you have the legal right to hold your employer accountable if you believe you have been discriminated against at work.

Our employee rights attorneys at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. are experienced experts in discrimination cases. We fight aggressively for the religious rights of Florida employees and are here to help. We understand what it takes to hold employers accountable for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the ADA, and the Florida Civil Rights Act.

You may be entitled to significant funds in damages due to religious discrimination. We will thoroughly examine the details of your situation and advise you of your best legal options moving forward.

If you have been refused religious accommodations in the workplace, have been fired or harassed due to your religion, or other types of discrimination, contact us to set up a free, confidential consultation.

We have offices in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Sarasota, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg, and West Palm Beach.

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