The Issue of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

“Employee claims of religious discrimination have climbed as the US and workers’ expressions of faith have grown more diverse, creating legal headaches for companies and exposing the complexities of managing religion on the job” (Trottman). Religious discrimination is a growing problem specifically in the United States for a variety of reasons. The increase in religious discrimination complaints is attributed to the rise in immigration, the more open discussion of religion, growing assertiveness of religious practitioners, and the ever increasing diversity of the workplace The amount of religious discrimination complaints have more than doubled within the past 15 years, but are still a relatively small portion of the overall discrimination claims and complaints received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity website, “The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs”.

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone in the work place setting, which includes hiring, promoting, demoting, and firing as well as the type and amount of work assigned to an individualt Religion is a protected status under the law The law is still continually broken unfortunately, and this may take place in the Human Resources Department as frequently as it can take place in any other department within a business unfortunately, “Within the context of the CRA, employees usually claim religious discrimination on four grounds: (1) disparate treatment, (2) religious harassment, (3) failure to reasonably accommodate religious beliefs, and (4) retaliation against an applicant or employee who alleges religious discrimination” (Ghurnman, Ryan, Barclay, & Markel 439) Disparate treatment occurs when an employee is treated different from other employees in regard to hiring, promoting, recruiting, compensation, firing, and other privileges or disciplinary actions based specifically on the individual‘s religion or religious affiliation.

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Religious harassment refers to an individual being coerced or required to do something, or sign something as a condition of employment This also refers to an employee being urged by an employee in direct authority of in Human Resources or any other department to join another institution of faith, Failure to reasonably accommodate religious beliefs occurs most frequently when an employer mandates an individual to work on a particular day of religious observance or through a time that they may be in prayer. It is also applicable when an employer mandates that employees wear their hair a certain way, or wear certain types of clothes that do not correlate with their religion. Numerous cases have been brought against employers for not hiring an individual because they wore a head covering for their faith or refused to cut their hair or remove any particular article of clothing or such in relation to their religious beliefs. Any undue hardship placed on the employee, rather than accommodations being made that would not significantly hinder major operations would fall under this category. “Because employees may experience conflicts between their employment obligations and their religious observations, employers are legally required to reasonably accommodate these religious obligations, unless the accommodation would cause undue hardship for the employer (Ghumman, 444).

Human Resource Departments are at the fore front when it comes to all subjects related to the management of their human resource which are the employees that make up any institution Human Resource Departments are tasked with ensuring adherence to State and Federal Laws as well as any guidelines pertinent to their operation in direct relation to the human work force within their organization. Internal policies should be in place to ensure all guidelines, statutes and laws are being followed Because religious discrimination is such a hot topic and frequent occurrence, there is a page on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website specifically dedicated to helping employers ensure this discrimination is not taking place. The page contains helpful tips and guidelines to have in place to ensure discrimination does not take place. Some of the guidelines and helpful tips outlined on the website are to ensure the company has a well—publicized anti-harassment policy in place that covers religious harassment and makes the practices that are strictly forbidden transparent to all readers “If an employer is confronted with customer biases, e,g., an adverse reaction to being served by an employee due to religious garb, the employer should consider engaging with and educating the customers regarding any misperceptions they may have and/or the equal employment opportunity laws.” (eeocgov) the website not only lists best practices in relation to religious accommodations, but also outlines what employers should do if or when they find out a religious complaint has been filed against them.

This website is a great resources for any Human Resources Department or company in general. There are several actions a company can take to further reduce the amount of discrimination taking place. By providing written objectives and policies, Human Resource Departments can greatly reduce the amount of religious discrimination in the workplace Other steps in ensuring reduction of discrimination include instituting written guidelines on what is not permitted, as well as disciplinary actions associated with any discrimination. Employers should allow employees to practice their religious beliefs as long as it is not causing any distress or potential injury to others around that employee. Strict adherence to the laws pertaining to discrimination is of utter importance. Human Resource Departments must take responsibility for managing the employees. They must also ensure discrimination is not taking place in the recruiting and hiring process. Not only is it ethically and morally wrong, but it is illegal and can result in high cost law suits. A company should see strict adherence to anti-discrimination practices as in their best interest for a variety of reasons.

Not only does discrimination tarnish their reputation, but it could cost them customers, and in turn cost them revenue for the company. A discrimination lawsuit could ultimately cost a business its future. The use of social media and messaging applications on a daily basis means anything can be recorded at any point in time, and the rate at which individuals can alert the world at what happens is growing faster daily. No company wants bad publicity over something that could have potentially been avoided altogether by simply outlining procedures, practices, and guidelines to recruiting, hiring, promoting, assigning, enabling, and firing the employees. The use of panels is also a common practice that alleviates the issues involved when one individual chooses who to hire. Instituting flexibility in schedules is also extremely beneficial when dealing with multiple individuals with various backgrounds and situations as well as religious beliefs If there is inherent flexibility in the dress code, and the scheduling, there will be more room to accommodate employees with various beliefs. Proper awareness training of all managers and human resource personnel is key to the success of any anti-discrimination implementation.

There are numerous laws regarding the discrimination of individuals based on many protected classifications Discrimination unfortunately occurs on a daily basis in all walks of life. Ideally, Human Resource Departments would be immune to discrimination, but this is not the case. Human Resource Departments are guilty of discrimination as are other departments and managers as well as coworkers in many organizations. The number of complaints and cases for religious discrimination in the workplace has grown tremendously over the years and continues to grow at an alarming rate. In order to effectively reduce the discrimination and eliminate it altogether, numerous implementations must be made. “The Regulations do not define ‘religion and belief’, which provides flexibility to those interpreting the Regulations and avoids either under or over inclusive definitions, but also leaves the Regulations vulnerable to inconsistent interpretations.” (Vickers 280)

In order to remove the doubt and room for interpretation in the workplace, key policies must be outlined and instituted throughout an entire organization. Hiring processes must be outlined as well as the panels that will conduct hiring interviews. All candidates should be treated equally, and all interview questions should be the same across the board. Standards for promoting and dismissing employees should also be outlined, and multiple personnel should need to sign off on any major decisions affecting employees. “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 generally forbids considering religion in making employment decisions and requires employers to reasonably accommodate workers’ religion-based requestsias long as it doesn’t cause an undue hardship.” (Trottman) Issues surrounding discrimination are not going away any time soon. Employers and namely Human Resource Departments must institute policies and strictly adhere to the laws and guidelines pertinent to alleviate this growing issue.

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The Issue of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace. (2022, Oct 13). Retrieved from

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