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Religious discrimination in the workplace

According to a speaker at the Society for Human Resource Management's Employment Law and Legislative Conference, workers in New York and the rest of the United States should be diligent when speaking about religious discrimination in the workplace. This advice comes in the wake of religious community centers being threatened and as travel and immigration efforts from certain countries are being restricted on the basis of religion.

Religion does not refer only to organized, traditional faiths like Islam, Buddhism or Christianity; it also encompasses individuals who adhere to the principles of lesser-known religions, who possess a sincerely held religious belief that is not held by the religious group to which they belong and to those who have sincere nontheistic belief concerning what is wrong or right. Hate groups, economic philosophies and political organizations are not considered religions.

Professionals in human resources should be mindful of and avoid engaging in the different types of workplace religious discrimination. This include disparate treatment, tolerating or participating in harassment based on an individual's religion, engaging in retaliation against someone receiving or requesting a religious accommodation and associational bias.

Disparate treatment can include stereotyping, intolerance regarding an individual's religious dress or observance, refusing to hire or promote an individual because of the individual's religious practices and refusing to hire individuals of a certain religion because of customers' preferences. Religious harassment can include disparaging nicknames, slurs, questions or comments regarding religious attire or a granted religious accommodation.

Individuals who have been victims of workplace discrimination because of their religious beliefs may have legal recourse. An attorney who practices employment law may also pursue financial compensation for a client whose employer or co-workers engaged in discrimination based on national origin, sexual orientation, race, pregnancy, gender, political affiliation, marital status or disability. A complaint may be filed with the appropriate federal agency.

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