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Understanding religious discrimination in the workplace

Religion is one of the areas covered under Title VII, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace in Minnesota. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workplace discrimination involving religion does not just concern someone who practices a certain religion. It also covers the rights of people who have a relationship with someone of a religious faith or are a spouse of someone in a religion. Additionally, people are also protected if their moral beliefs or ethics are under harassment. 

For members of a religion, the law prohibits any segregation in the job due to any religious practices. This includes grooming styles or religious garbs that are worn. For example, a company cannot exclude someone from working in a customer-contact position due to an employee’s wearing of a hijab or a turban if it is in obedience to their faith. The hiring process, assignments of jobs, pay, termination or any other terms also cannot be influenced by religion. A person is not just safe in terms of job duties and hiring practices due to religious affiliation; any harassment, whether it comes from a superior, co-worker or client is also illegal.

There are also certain accommodations that must be met so that an employee can practice his or her religion. According to the United States Department of Labor, accommodation might not be automatic. The employer has the right to request additional information to determine what modifications can be granted. It is also common for the employee and his or her supervisor, and/or the employer to sit down to discuss the accommodation process and to agree upon a reasonable action.

Generally, accommodation must be met unless the employer will face undue hardship. Furthermore, the religious accommodation for one employee cannot infringe on another employee's rights. There are many potential criteria that might fall under undue hardship. This might be that the accommodation forces some employees to take on additional hazardous work, thus negatively impacting the health and safety of workers. Other undue hardship might include a reduction in the efficiency of the company or excessive costs to the business. Something that usually isn’t an undue hardship might be an adjustment to the company’s dress code or flexible shifts.

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