Modern workplaces have become increasingly diverse – bringing together employees from all kinds of different backgrounds, cultures and belief systems.
Unfortunately, clashes can happen when people are not willing to make room for others with different ideas, practices or faiths than their own. Religious discrimination is an unfortunate reality that many workers continue to experience, even though it is illegal.
How do you recognize religious discrimination?
Religious discrimination can manifest in numerous ways, from subtle expressions of bias to explicit acts of prejudice. Examples include:
- Blatant stereotyping: For example, fundamentalist Christians are sometimes portrayed as closed-minded and naive, while Jewish people are portrayed as greedy and disloyal.
- Unequal opportunities: This can include any situation where a worker’s religious practices (or lack thereof) are used to make decisions about hiring, key assignments or promotions.
- Verbal or physical harassment: This could include things like pulling off a Muslim woman’s headscarf or directing negative comments toward an atheist about the fact that they don’t attend church.
- Unreasonable restrictions: This may involve things like refusing to permit a Muslim woman to wear her headscarf despite the fact it poses no safety issue on the job simply because the management says it may “put customers off,” or permitting Christians to wear crosses but asking members of other religions to tuck their religious jewelry inside their clothing.
- Refusals to accommodate: Religious employees may ask for reasonable accommodations so that they can avoid violating their religious beliefs, and employers who refuse without showing that accommodation would cause them undue hardship can be in violation of the law.
Sometimes discrimination comes from the top down, and management is primarily responsible. Other times, the discrimination can come from an employee’s co-workers or clients. In those situations, the employer still has an obligation to put a stop to the problem so that all their employees have a discrimination-free workplace.
If you’ve been subjected to religious discrimination in your workplace and your employer has been non-responsive to your concerns (or the cause of your distress in the first place), it may be time to explore your legal options.