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What is considered religious discrimination?

Religious discrimination occurs when a New York employer harasses, segregates or makes other employment decisions based on an employee's religious views. Discrimination also occurs if an employer makes hiring decisions based on an applicant's strongly-held religious beliefs. Such practices are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the event that an employee needs to wear a head covering, is not allowed to cut his or her hair or needs other accommodations, an employer must generally provide them.

The only time an employer may not have to provide accommodations is if it would present an undue hardship to the business. Employees are asked to talk to their employer and give as much information about a specific accommodation as possible. This may allow an employer to determine if, when and how the accommodation can be made. Employers are not allowed to move employees into roles that would prevent them from interacting with customers if their job description otherwise requires them to do so.

In some cases, colleagues and managers may make jokes or comments about a person's religious beliefs without violating the law. However, these comments may not become so pervasive as to create a hostile working environment. This rule applies to any worker within the company whether that person is a manager or otherwise in a position of authority.

Employees or job applicants who feel that they were harassed or discriminated against may take legal action against the employer in question. Whether managers or owners carried out or knew of the discrimination, they may still be legally responsible for it. An employment discrimination attorney may be able to determine what remedies exist for a client who has been the victim of prohibited practices.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Religious Discrimination", November 01, 2014

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