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4 questions you may have about religious discrimination

Practicing a religion can make many people feel comfort and connection to something greater than themselves. You may attend religious services or have practices that you carry out throughout your day that adhere to your beliefs. If you have particularly open practices, you may fear the potential for discrimination due to your religion.

Though religious discrimination should not occur at your place of employment, the possibility does exist for unjust treatment. It may become so widespread that it appears commonplace to others but can create a hostile work environment for you and others of your religion.

What constitutes religious discrimination?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes two types of religious harassment in the workplace. The first kind involves an employer requiring potential workers to give up or alter their religious beliefs in order to obtain employment. The second type relates to subjecting workers to negative and widespread comments or actions due to their religion, resulting in the workplace becoming hostile.

When do jokes become harassment?

Though workplaces should remain professional environments, it is not unusual for workers to have fun at their places of employment. However, when workers make jokes, some of the punchlines may seem off-color or reflect negatively on people of your religion. While this type of joke may offend you, it does not constitute harassment unless the jokes and negative remarks at the expense of your religion happen at a widespread level and create a negative work environment.

Can you practice your religion on the job?

In some religions, daily prayer takes place at specific times, or adherents must wear certain attire. As a result, you may wonder whether your employer has the right to deny you the ability to participate in such practices. Under law, your employer should accommodate your religious practices as long as doing so does not result in the company facing undue hardship.

If company activities can continue unaffected by your practices but your employer refuses you time and space to carry them out or terminates you from your position because of the acts, you could have cause to file a discrimination claim.

How can you handle religious discrimination?

If you believe you have been subjected to discriminatory and harassing actions in the workplace due to your religion, you may have various options. A good first step would be speaking with your superiors about the issues in hopes of having them corrected. If the problems go unaddressed, you may wish to consider taking legal action in hopes of rectifying the situation.

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