Religious Discrimination

New York and New Jersey Attorney Specializing in Employment Claims

Religious discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee adversely based on their religion or makes an employment decision based on the employee's religion, rather than on merit. Federal, state, and local laws prohibit discrimination and provide a basis for bringing a lawsuit for compensation if an employer fails to abide by the prohibition. There are various nuances to each law. Emre Polat is an experienced New York City religious discrimination lawyer who has represented both employers and employees, and he can provide aggressive representation in litigation.

Religious Discrimination

Federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies to businesses with at least 15 employees. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion or religious beliefs. Generally, however, the New York Human Rights Law, the New York City Human Rights Law, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination provide protection against religious discrimination to employees of much smaller businesses.

In general, employers are not allowed to treat job applicants or employees differently due to their religious beliefs or practices (or their lack of them) in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, discipline, promotion, fringe benefits, or recruitment. For example, an employer may not legally refuse to promote a qualified employee because they are an atheist. Similarly, an employer may not legally terminate an employee upon finding out that they are Muslim.

Employers may not condone harassment of employees due to their religious beliefs and practices either. Harassment related to an employee's religious beliefs may take the form of offensive or derogatory comments, pictures, jokes, or any demeaning actions. For example, if a supervisor routinely makes comments about Jewish workers being stingy in connection with a Jewish employee's participation in company lunches and holiday parties, this might be found to be harassment. However, a trivial or isolated incident is not likely to rise to the level of harassment. A religious discrimination attorney can advise New York City workers and employers on where this line may be drawn.

Finally, employers are not allowed to retaliate against a job applicant or employee for reporting what they in good faith believe to be religious discrimination in the workplace. In other words, a covered employer may not take an adverse employment action against an employee, such as terminating the employee, for complaining to HR, filing a religious discrimination charge, or filing a lawsuit. Even if it turns out that the employee was wrong about whether religious discrimination occurred, they may be able to recover damages for retaliation.

Employers are also required to provide a reasonable religious accommodation for an employee's sincerely held religious belief, except when to do so would create an undue hardship. Reasonable religious accommodations are minor alterations to the workplace to permit employees to exercise a religious practice or follow a belief. It is not just the beliefs of people who belong to the major religions that must be accommodated but also people of smaller religions or less formal sects.

Each claim of undue hardship by an employer is assessed on an individual basis, and courts will look at the nature of the employee's duties, the costs relative to the employer's size, the type of workplace, and the effect of the proposed accommodation on business operations. Collective bargaining agreements and workplace safety may also be considered as appropriate.

Employees are supposed to tell their employers that they need the accommodation and give the employer enough time and information to evaluate the request for an accommodation. The employer is allowed to ask questions as part of the evaluation, and it may offer a different accommodation to meet the need, rather than the accommodation that was requested. For example, the New York Human Rights Law requires employers to allow workers to observe holy days, unless it would pose an undue hardship. You might ask for the day off, but your employer may instead ask you to take leave without pay for time not made up or make up the missed work at a different time.

Explore Your Options With a Religious Discrimination Lawyer in New York City

Religious discrimination lawsuits are often challenging. An aggressive attorney can make sure that your rights are adequately protected. New York City religious discrimination attorney Emre Polat is an experienced and aggressive litigator providing representation to employees who have been discriminated against in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, as well as in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties and in New Jersey. Contact us at (212) 480-4500 or via our online form if you need to speak with a wrongful termination lawyer or seek assistance with another employment dispute.