Both federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and California law (the Fair Employment and Housing Act) prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee based on the employee’s religion.
Below are some things that you should know about your rights to be free from religious discrimination in California:
- “Religion” is very broadly defined. Religious beliefs can include unique beliefs that are held only by a few individuals or even by just one individual. But mere personal preferences are not religious beliefs.
- A belief is considered religious if it is a “sincere and meaningful” belief that “occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by . . . God.” (United States v. Seegar, 380 U.S. 163, 166 (1965))
- The U.S. Supreme Court has held that “religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit [ ] protection.” (Thomas v. Rev. Bd., 450 U.S. 707, 714 (1981))
- If: (a) an employee has a sincerely held religious belief, (b) the employer was aware of that belief, and (c) the employee’s belief conflicted with one of his/her job responsibilities, then the employee is entitled to a reasonable accommodation – unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation is unreasonable because it would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
- A reasonable accommodation eliminates the conflict between an employee’s religious practice and a job requirement. A reasonable accommodation includes, but is not limited to: job restructuring, job reassignment, modification of work practices, allowing time off to avoid a conflict with an employee’s religious observances, dress and appearance policy exemptions, and transfers.
- For instance, if an employee’s religion requires him/her to attend an annual convention during the upcoming weekend — but the employee is regularly scheduled to work on weekends — then a reasonable accommodation might involve changing the employee’s schedule so that the employee is not required to work that particular weekend.