Despite the fact that America does not have an official religion, and many people come here to avoid religious persecution, religious discrimination still occurs in the United States. The fact of the matter is that treating someone unfairly due to their religious beliefs should not be tolerated in America. There are laws that have been put in place to protect people from religious discrimination, regardless of what religion they practice. Here, I will discuss some common forms of religious discrimination, and what to do if you are a victim of it.
Harassment and Segregation
Harassing someone because of their religion is against the law. Religious harassment includes acts such as offensive statements made about a person’s religion. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine legitimate harassment from an offhand remark, a joke, or someone teasing you. It can also be difficult to prove harassment in court for these reasons. However, harassment usually escalates to a threat or different treatment. For example, if religious harassment leads to a hostile work environment, or if a vendor refuses to serve you because of your religion. You should contact an attorney to determine if you are a victim of religious harassment.
Segregation is another issue that you might face because of your religion. In the workplace, you can’t be segregated based on your religion. This might include the inability to work in customer service because of a company’s fear of customer bias/preference.
Dress and Grooming Policies
Many religions require practicing members to wear certain clothing or other accessories. For example, some male members of the Jewish Orthodox community wear the hair at the corners of their head long, in a tradition called payot. Another example is when muslim women wear burkas or hijab. Workplaces should not bar religious people from wearing clothing or accessories that comply with their religious beliefs. People also can’t face discrimination in public for their religious dress policies.
Especially in a workplace setting, those who follow a certain religion are entitled to reasonable accommodation. This is the case as long as it does not cause more than minimal hardship to the employer. Reasonable accommodation includes adjustments to the work setting so that the person can practice their religion. A few other examples include:
- Voluntary shift swaps or substitutions.
- Flexible scheduling.
- Changes to workplace practices and policies.
- Job reassignments.
If you think that you are the victim of religious discrimination, there are steps that you can take to get help. One of the first things to do is to discuss your situation with a civil rights attorney.