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Are religious practices protected in California workplaces?

In a recent post here, we highlighted a report claiming that many California Muslims were experiencing discrimination in the workplace. This story may have left you wondering if you have protections against religious discrimination in the workplace.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- a federal law -- protects workers from religious discrimination at work. Under this law, your employer cannot discriminate against you because of your religion. In other words, your religion cannot play a role in your termination, your hiring, in a promotion or other condition placed on your employment. This law applies to current employees and to prospective employees. Furthermore, a labor union cannot force you to pay dues if it is against your religious beliefs.

Additionally, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for your religious needs and preferences. Therefore, employers cannot refuse to make allowances for religious holidays, schedule examinations in conflict of religious needs, ask about future availability or impose strict or restrictive dress codes.

However, if an employer can show that providing you with these reasonable accommodations would create an undue hardship, then the employer does not need to make the accommodations. Safety concerns, extraordinary costs, infringing on other employee's rights and conflicts with other laws can all create an undue burden. Violating a collective bargaining agreement or seniority system can also be considered an undue burden for employers.

Because of the individual nature of a person's religion and job, this blog post cannot provide legal advice. Therefore, those who may be experiencing religious discrimination at work should investigate further and speak with an attorney.

Source: eeoc.gov, "Facts About Religious Discrimination," Accessed Sept. 28, 2014

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