Procedures for employers to avoid religious discrimination

Laws obligate employers in California to treat employees and job applicants fairly and not discriminate because of age, sex, disability, race or religion. Recent increases in societal tension regarding religion, as shown by attacks on Jewish centers and the U.S. president’s pursuit of travel bans against some Muslim countries, could spill over into workplaces and expose employers to liability for violating workers’ rights. Clearly written employee handbooks and consistent application of nondiscriminatory policies could enable employers to avoid legal problems. These policies should expressly mention religion and tactics for avoiding discrimination.

When an employee requests an accommodation for a religious practice, such as wearing a hijab head scarf or asking for Sunday off, an employer should document the reason for granting or denying the request. A manager should also make it clear to an employee that occasional reviews of the accommodation will occur and accommodations could change.

Everyone at work should discourage discrimination and harassment. If someone hears disparaging remarks made against someone because of religion, then the person should speak up against the behavior or report it to human resources. Otherwise, if a legal case arises, a court might view a lack of intervening action as an employer condoning discrimination.

Someone who believes that his or her religion prevented an employer from making a job offer, granting a promotion or approving an accommodation request might be experiencing religious discrimination. An attorney could provide insights about how to proceed with a legal complaint. If the behavior and actions reported by the person appear to cross legal lines, a lawyer might prepare a lawsuit. Testimony from witnesses about the discrimination or copies of company emails might be organized by an attorney and filed with a court. A settlement could emerge when the attorney negotiates with the employer or takes the case to trial.

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