RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN NEW YORK

Muslim employees who wear a hijab or need an appropriate space for prayers during the workday, as well as Jewish employees who take time off to observe the Sabbath or religious holidays, may not be able to conform to a company’s dress code, time and leave requirements or work space allocations because of their religious obligations. Adverse employment decisions based upon head attire and unreasonable refusals to grant time off for religious observances or accommodate any other sincere religious practice amount to unlawful religious discrimination — unless the employer can demonstrate that accommodating these religious obligations would cause undue hardship in the running of the company. If you have been refused an accommodation for a religious practice and want to learn what you can do about it, consult New York City religious discrimination attorneys.

Accommodating religious practices

Federal, state and city laws attempt to resolve the tug of war between an employee’s sincerely held beliefs and the company’s policies and procedures by requiring an employer to give employees areasonable opportunity to fulfill their religious obligations through:

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Voluntary shift substitutions or swaps
  • Job reassignments
  • Modifications to workplace policies or practices to allow for the use of particular items of religious dress, hairstyles or facial hair, preference for certain types of clothing

When accommodations aren’t necessary

Employers, however, do not have to offer these or other accommodations for religious practices if the accommodations would cause undue hardship in the operation of the business in that they would:

  • Create additional operating costs
  • Cause safety concerns
  • Decrease efficiency
  • Impose upon the privileges of other employees
  • Unfairly and unevenly allocate potentially hazardous or burdensome work

Under federal law, the employer could claim an accommodation is unduly harsh if making the accommodation costs more than a minimal amount and, therefore, under federal law, the employer may not need to accommodate the employee’s needs in many cases.

This would not be the case for a New York City employee making a religious discrimination claim under the New York City Human Rights Law. A New York City discrimination lawyer would tell you that under this law, if you work at a New York City business that employs more than four people, you would be entitled to a religious accommodation, unless it was quite difficult or costly for the employer to do so. If you have suffered job consequences as a result of religious discrimination and are successful in your claim, you could get your job back (if you were fired), collect back pay and get compensated for losses and punitive damages.

Employees need to do their part

Employees need to do their part in making this work. They need to tell the employer when they are hired about their religious requirements and explain that they need the accommodations they are requesting because of their religious obligations. An employee does not have to show proof of their religious convictions. If you have further questions or concerns about religious discrimination, consult an experienced attorney at the Akin Law Group.