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Religious Discrimination in the Workplace and Reasonable Accommodation

August 18, 2011

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC) religious discrimination is treating an individual employee or applicant in the workplace differently because of their religious beliefs.

As our Newport Beach labor and employment lawyers blog has discussed previously, Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal to discriminate against people in the workplace who belong to traditional and organized religions, and sincerely hold religious, moral or ethical beliefs in any aspect of employment, including hiring, job assignments, firing, work promotions, training, layoffs, and any other employment terms or conditions.

Under federal law, employers are required to give reasonable accommodation to an employee's religious beliefs and practices, by making reasonable adjustments to the work environment--allowing an employee to practice their religion, unless it would cause burden or hardship on the employee's business operations. Common religious accommodations include modifying workplace policies or practices, flexible scheduling, shift substitutions, or job reassignments. Employers must also give reasonable accommodation to an employee's appearance or grooming practices, including wearing head coverings like a Muslim headscarf or hijab, as we have discussed in a previous Santa Ana employment lawyers blog, or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair.

A recent example of alleged religious discrimination in the workplace was in recent news after a Muslim security guard refused to shave his beard when he began working for American Patriot Security in 2009. When Abdulkadir Omar reportedly began working for the company, he was not told upon hiring that he would have to shave his beard in order to keep his job. Omar wears a beard as part of this Islamic faith, and six months after he was hired, a supervisor informed him that he would have to comply with company policy and shave. Omar continued to work for the company until he was allegedly wrongfully terminated from his employment for not shaving his beard.

Omar reportedly contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the EEOC, who determined in May of this year that the security company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by engaging in discrimination and then retaliation against Omar, by firing him for not shaving his beard.

The EEOC states that an employer does not have to accommodate an employee's religious practices if it could cause undue hardship or a legitimate concern for the company, such as compromising workplace safety, costing a significant amount of money, decreasing workplace efficiency, infringing on or affecting the rights of other employees or demanding that other employees carry more of the work burden that is potentially dangerous or burdensome--none of which, according to Omar, applied to his reasonable accommodation.

Omar is looking to be compensated for 65 hours for which he was not paid, along with general damages.

In the cities of Mission Viejo, Orange, and Rancho Santa Margarita, California, contact Howard Law, PC today.

Muslim man sues after being fired because of his beard, The Vancouver Sun, August 8, 2011

Muslim man sues WA employer for firing over beard, The Sacramento Bee, August 4, 2011

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC): Religious Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (EEOC)

Related Blog Posts:

Abercrombie Hit With Another Religious Discrimination Lawsuit over Hijab, California Employment Lawyers Blog, July 7, 2011

Muslim Files EEOC Discrimination Complaint Over Disney's Costume Policy--in Order to Wear Hijab, California Employment Lawyers Blog, August 26, 2010

EEOC Files Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Against Abercrombie & Fitch--Muslim Teen Denied Rights, California Employment Lawyers Blog, September 23, 2009

Muslim Housekeeper Fired for Wearing Head Scarf--Wins Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Settlement, California Employment Lawyers Blog, December 21, 2009