Religious discrimination in employment occurs when an employer who is covered by the anti-discrimination laws treats an employee or applicant unfavorably because of that person’s religious beliefs. This not only includes people who belong to traditional religions, but also those who have sincerely held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs. Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone less favorably because the person is married to (or associated with) a person of a certain religion, or because of a person’s connection with an organization or group that is generally associated with people of a certain religion.
Religious discrimination can also occur in the form of harassment in the workplace by a supervisor, co-worker, client or customer of the employer. Such conduct can include offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or practices. Although the law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
Federal and state law forbid religious discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law applicable to religious discrimination claims. The Idaho Human Rights Act provides the basis for state law claims of religious discrimination in employment.
The law requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of an employer’s business. The law further requires that an employer reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and practices related to such things as dress and grooming practices unless doing so would create an undue burden on the employer’s business. An employee cannot be forced to participate (or not participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment.
If you believe you have been a victim of religious discrimination in employment, you should act promptly to pursue any claim as the time for filing such claims is limited. Claims for religious discrimination under Title VII and/or under the Idaho Human Rights Act must first be filed with the Idaho Human Rights Commission before such claims can be pursued in Court.