How Can I File a Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Against My Employer?

Religion is something that is very personal to many people of different faiths. Their belief is protected by law and something over which they cannot face consequences at work. If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of the religion in which you place your faith and practice, you have the right to file a lawsuit against your employer for breaking the laws which protect your religious freedom.

The topic of religion is something that can fill volumes upon volumes of philosophical textbooks – and they indeed do! Religion, and even the lack of any religion, is personal and it permeates nearly every aspect of our lives. The employment sector is one such facet which is affected by religion. It was not too long ago that employers could discriminate against their employees for the color of their skin, their sex, country of origin, and even their religion. If you did not follow the same religion as your employer, or your religion was foreign or strange to them, they had the legal right to discipline you. Thanks to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are no longer allowed to discriminate against employees because of their religion. This means that employers are not only allowed to treat others differently or unfavorably because of their religion but also that employers may not favor employees/applicants because of their religion.

The California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group is here to ensure that your employer receives the correct punishment for breaking the law. If you believe that your employer has discriminated against you because of your religion, you have the right to file a religious discrimination suit and sue your employer. In order to successfully sue your employer and collect all of the damages to which you are rightfully entitled, you need an experienced employment attorney by your side to give you legal counsel and representation. The intricacies of employment law can be incredibly complex, and experienced employment lawyers can help you understand all of your rights and the proper procedure for filing a lawsuit against your employer.

What Is Considered a Religion?

Employees and applicants are protected by Title VII when it comes to discrimination. Employers may not discriminate against their employees because of their religion, or lack of religion. The employee or applicant does not need to belong to a major religion in order for their beliefs to be protected; the religion can be one that is outside of the mainstream. To be protected, their beliefs must be religious in nature and sincerely held.

Religious in Nature: The belief which an employee carries is considered “religious” if those beliefs are meaningful, concerns “ultimate ideas” such as life, death, and purpose, and a sense of a “higher power.”

Sincerely Held Beliefs: There are religions which require their followers to pray at certain times of the day. An employer must reasonably accommodate that employee’s beliefs, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship.

Can My Employer Discriminate Against Me Because of My Religion?

Under the federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate in any way against their employees because of characteristics like race, sex, country of origin, disability, and religion. This law applies to the entire process of employment – from the applicants looking for a job to the veterans who’ve had their position for over ten years. Discrimination is defined as behavior which leads to unequal treatment; an employer cannot treat someone differently or unfavorably simply because of their religion. Employees who lack any religion are also protected under the law if their lack of faith is found to be disturbing by their employers.

The law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for their employees, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship for employers.

What Rights Do I Have to Reasonable Accommodation?

If employees have sincere religious beliefs that conflict with an employment rule or requirement, the law dictates that employers must accommodate to that employee’s belief, or work with the employee to find a way around the conflict.

The majority of work practices (including holidays) in America were written and put into custom by white Christian men, and so a just employer will have no issues accommodating the workplace for their employee whose background differs from their own. Possible accommodation for religious employees may include the following:

  • Changes to Schedule: Employees might need time off for religious holidays, breaks during the day for prayer, or a schedule which allows you to take a Sabbath day off.
  • Changes to Duties: If your job duties conflict with your religious beliefs, employers may be required to modify your job duties as long as you can perform the essential job functions of your job.
  • Exceptions to the Dress Code: Some offices have a strict policy which requires their employees to adhere to a policy regarding clothing or grooming. If an employee’s religious beliefs contradict the dress/grooming code, an employer must accommodate the code for the employee. For example, if an employer requires their employees to be clean-shaven but completely shaving is against an employee’s religion, the employer may have to make an exception to this rule for that employee.
  • Company Facilities: If an employee needs a private space for prayer, an employer may be required to provide it.

Employers are required to provide these accommodations unless it creates an undue hardship. While undue hardship is normally associated with money, it can also mean the environment it creates at work. This creates a tricky situation at work as what some may view as religious rights, others may view as discrimination or harassment.

How to File a Lawsuit

In order to file a lawsuit against your employer, you must first file a charge against an employment government agency. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency, and the Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH) is the state agency. Since both state and federal laws prohibit religious discrimination, both agencies are available to you. They are in a work-sharing agreement which means that when you file your claim with one agency, an identical copy is created and sent to the other agency. This duplication process is known as dual-filing and serves to avoid any double charges and, more importantly, to fully protect your rights under both state and federal laws.

Because both agencies work together when it comes to religious discrimination, you have 300 days from the day you received discrimination to file your charge. After the agency conducts their investigation, you can request a “right-to-sue” letter which legally allows you to file the charge against your employer. We recommend that you only request this letter once you and your attorney, because you only have 90 days to take action once you receive this letter.

The California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group is here to ensure that justice is served. If your employer discriminated against you because of your religion, you are entitled to the damages you suffered because of this action. We offer free consultation and the zero-fee guarantee, so there’s no financial obligation on your part! Call us today to see what we can do for you.