Your Rights Against Religious Discrimination

Employers must not discriminate against employees based on their religion, and they must accommodate employees' needs to practice their faiths.

Federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act) and most state laws prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of religion. This means that your employer cannot make any decisions based on or treat you differently because of your religious beliefs or practices in any aspect of employment -- from hiring to firing and everything in between.

In addition, where workers articulate a need to express their religious beliefs and practices in the workplace, companies are generally required to accommodate them, unless doing so would cause the company undue hardship. Similarly, where employees need a little flexibility to practice their religion outside of work, the employer might have to comply. This might mean not scheduling an employee to work on her Sabbath day, for example, or relaxing a dress code so that an employee can wear religious garments.

Companies do, however, have some flexibility in how they accommodate employees. An employer is required to make reasonable accommodations -- not to accept whatever accommodation the employee suggests, nor to spare the employee all expenses in making the accommodation. For example, your employer might give you the day off for a religious observance, but do so without pay. Or, if changing an employee's schedule to accommodate a religious belief would wreak havoc on a seniority system and cause severe morale problems among other employees, the employer might not have to agree to it.

For more information on religious discrimination, including how to respond if you believe you have been discriminated against because of your religion, contact your local field office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (contact information is available at www.eeoc.gov) and your state fair employment practices agency. Note that if you wish to file a complaint with a government agency and/or file a lawsuit, there are time limits for doing, so be sure not to miss them.