When your duties at work interfere with your religious beliefs or practices, your employer must accommodate you unless it will significantly burden them to do so. What qualifies as “reasonable accommodations” that won’t burden the business will vary depending on the company. But common examples of accommodation for religious purposes would be allowing an employee to take the Sabbath off or wear a head scarf at work. 

Concerning reasonable accommodations, it’s the employer’s responsibility to show that what they offered was, in fact, reasonable. It’s also on them to prove that certain requests would place too large of a burden on the company, if they decide to deny them. If you’ve been discriminated against or harassed at work for religious purposes, speaking with an employment law attorney is essential.

Religion and Employment in Arizona

  • Your employer must attempt to accommodate your sincerely held religious beliefs
  • They have a right to ask for more details or to validate your claim
  • A simple offhand comment may not be enough to count as religious harassment or discrimination
  • An employer doesn’t have to accommodate requests that will place an undue burden on the business
  • If you were fired, demoted, or otherwise penalized for your religion, it’s important to work with an attorney

The law protects members of organized religious like Judaism, Islam, or Christianity, along with other sincerely held moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. Arizona and federal law both forbid employment discrimination in compensation, firing, hiring, job assignments, and more. Also, employers may not force their employees to participate in religious behaviors at work as a condition of their job.

Religious-Based Harassment

Religious-based discrimination may include offensive comments, but an isolated offhand comment or one instance of simple teasing might not qualify. Harassment crosses the boundary and becomes illegal, however, when it’s severe or frequent enough to result in the employee being penalized or causes a hostile environment at work. Keep in mind that a discussion about religious ideas at work may not count as harassment unless it’s unwelcome.

Requesting Accommodation

As an employee or applicant who wants accommodation for your religious practices, you must tell your employer about it. If a solution for your request isn’t immediately obvious, the employer should communicate with you to find one. If they ask you for additional information for the purpose of evaluating your request, you should provide what you can. 

For example, if you mention that you need to change your schedule to fit your daily prayers, they can ask you about the duration and time of your prayers to determine whether they can accommodate you. If they suggest an alternative solution to your original request, you must reasonably cooperate with them to find something that works for both of you.

What is Religious Discrimination in the Work Place?

According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may not discriminate against their employees for their religion. This type of discrimination happens when an employee or applicant is treated unfairly due to their religious practices or beliefs. For example, choosing not to promote someone because they practice a certain religion would be a form of discrimination. Similarly, firing someone for their religious practices or beliefs is a form of discrimination. 

How Working With an Attorney Can Help

Employers are required by law to reasonably accommodate your religious practices or beliefs, unless making accommodations would threaten the operation of the business. An employee may request the Sabbath off, or time off for a religious holiday each year. They might also ask for a place at work to pray, or to wear a headscarf. 

Your employer may not simply refuse your requests but can reasonably request more information. The law forbids employers from retaliating against employees who file a discrimination charge or oppose work practices that discriminate against religious employees. If your employer has refused to work with you on your requests, or they’ve subjected you to harassment for your religion, an attorney can help you understand what to do next.

FAQs on Religion in the Workplace

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding religion in the work place:

Q: Can you be fired for religious beliefs?

If an employer rejected you for a position, harassed, fired, or otherwise penalized you for your religious practices or beliefs, they may have been engaging in unlawful religious discrimination. They’re also prohibited from retaliating against you for requesting accommodation to practice your religion.

Q: Does my employer have to meet my request for religious accommodation?

No, employers only have to make arrangements for “sincerely held” beliefs that can be accommodated without undue hardship to the business. In most cases, there’s no reason to suspect that a religious practice is insincerely held, but an employer may inquire (within reason) to make sure.

Q: What are the most common religious accommodation requests at work?

Wearing certain clothing items, such as a hijab or yarmulke, or requesting a schedule change for the purpose of attending a religious service. Non-religious people may also request to be excused from the prayer offered at their workplace. Some employees may wish to take breaks at a certain time of day for their daily prayer or to refrain from working on their Sabbath.

Q: Are comments on another person’s religion always unlawful in the work place?

No, even unwelcome comments aren’t unlawful unless you perceive the behavior to be pervasive or severe enough to cause a work environment that a reasonable individual would consider abusive or hostile. Religious comments that someone repeatedly directs at you can become pervasive or severe, even if they don’t intend for it to be. 

Need Help With Religious Discrimination in Your Workplace?

If you’ve been on the receiving end of discrimination or harassment for your beliefs at work, a lawyer may be able to help you hold them accountable. Keep in mind that they must attempt to make reasonable accommodations and aren’t allowed to retaliate against you for requesting the changes. Our employment law attorneys are experienced in negotiating resolutions and can help you figure out where to go next.
 

Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.

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