What is Creed or Religious Discrimination?
Religious discrimination occurs when an applicant or employee is treated differently or unfavorably because he or she is of a certain religion or because of his or her religious beliefs.
The “discrimination” can include hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, pay, and any other term or condition of employment, as well as offensive or derogatory comments, slurs, or comments relating to stereotypes and assumptions about the abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals that belong to certain religious or hold certain religious beliefs.
Title VII and the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) protects individuals who not only belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also those who have sincerely held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs. WFEA defines “religion” as a system of religious beliefs, including moral or ethical beliefs about right and wrong, that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views. Title VII also prohibits workplace or job segregation based on religion, including religious garb and grooming practices, such as assigning an employee to a non-customer contact position because of actual or feared customer preference.
Religious discrimination may involve treating someone differently because that person is married to, or associated with, an individual of a particular religion or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group.
An employer also cannot force an employee to participate, or to not participate, in a religious activity as a condition of employment.
Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation
State and federal law requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s or applicant’s religious belief, observance, or practice unless it would cause an “undue hardship” on the employer’s program, enterprise or business. A reasonable accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.
The employee must inform the employer, or the employer must know, of the need for the religious accommodation.
Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.
A reasonable accommodation could also be altering the employer’s dress or grooming practices because of an employee’s religion, observances, or beliefs. This might include, for example, wearing particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf), or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard). It also includes an employee’s observance of a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (such as pants or miniskirts).
Offensive or derogatory comments, slurs, or the display of insensitive or offensive symbols in the workplace because of a person’s religion can be unlawful religious harassment.
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