Religious Discrimination and Harassment
Federal law and Texas law provides protections to members of a “protected class” against discrimination in the workplace. If you or a loved one have been discriminated or harassed at work call our Law Firm. Our employment law attorneys can help. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. It generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. Title VII also applies to private and public colleges and universities, employment agencies, and labor organizations. One of the “protected classes” established by Title VII is religion.
Religious Discrimination and Harassment. Religious discrimination and harassment happens when a person is treated differently based on their religion or perceived religion. Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person's religious beliefs or practices. Although the law doesn't prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren't 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). The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
Workplace Segregation Prohibited. Title VII also prohibits workplace or job segregation based on religion (including religious garb and grooming practices), such as assigning an employee to a non-customer contact position because of actual or feared customer preference .
Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation. The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer's business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion . Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.
Religious Accommodation/Dress & Grooming Policies. Unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer's operation of its business, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices. This applies not only to schedule changes or leave for religious observances, but also to such things as dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons. These might include, for example, wearing particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf), or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard). It also includes an employee's observance of a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (such as pants or miniskirts). When an employee or applicant needs a dress or grooming accommodation for religious reasons, he should notify the employer that he needs such an accommodation for religious reasons. If the employer reasonably needs more information, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request. If it would not pose an undue hardship, the employer must grant the accommodation.
Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship. An employer does not have to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.
Religious Discrimination and Employment Policies/Practices. An employee cannot be forced to participate (or not participate) in a religious activity as a condition of employment .
Evidentiary Considerations. As in most employment law claims, these cases are “she said, he said” type cases and therefore documenting everything that occurs is very important. You are encouraged to keep a diary or journal of what is going on at work as well as keeping copies of all correspondence to and from your employer (written complaints to the HR department, emails to and from your supervisor and/or coworkers, and any other relevant documents). If you are in San Antonio, or within the state of Texas, you can also make audio recordings of conversations without the other parties’ consent or knowledge as long as you are in the same room as the recording device. See this resource for the legalities of audio recordings in Texas.
Remedies for Employment Discrimination. Whenever discrimination is found, the goal of the law is to put the victim of discrimination in the same position (or nearly the same) that he or she would have been if the discrimination had never occurred. The types of relief will depend upon the discriminatory action and the effect it had on the victim. For example, if someone is not selected for a job or a promotion because of discrimination, the remedy may include placement in the job and/or back pay and benefits the person would have received. The employer also will be required to stop any discriminatory practices and take steps to prevent discrimination in the future. A victim of discrimination also may be able to recover attorney's fees, expert witness fees, and court costs.
Remedies May Include Compensatory & Punitive Damages. Compensatory and punitive damages may be awarded in cases involving intentional discrimination based on a person's race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), religion, disability, or genetic information.
Compensatory damages pay victims for out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination (such as costs associated with a job search or medical expenses) and compensate them for any emotional harm suffered (such as mental anguish, inconvenience, or loss of enjoyment of life).
Punitive damages may be awarded to punish an employer who has committed an especially malicious or reckless act of discrimination.
Statute of Limitations. To preserve your claim under state law, you must file with the TWC-CRD (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. To preserve your claim under federal law, you must file with the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. If you are a governmental employee with a discrimination claim, you should be sure to file a timely claim under Texas state law, because the state may have immunity from certain kinds of claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Limits on Compensatory & Punitive Damages. There are limits on the amount of compensatory and punitive damages a person can recover. These limits vary depending on the size of the employer:
- For employers with 15-100 employees, the limit is $50,000.
- For employers with 101-200 employees, the limit is $100,000.
- For employers with 201-500 employees, the limit is $200,000.
- For employers with more than 500 employees, the limit is $300,000.
Liquidated Damages. Liquidated damages may be awarded to punish an especially malicious or reckless act of discrimination. The amount of liquidated damages that may be awarded is equal to the amount of back pay awarded the victim.Call Us!
If you or a loved one has been subject to employment discrimination based on religion, please contact the attorneys of Carabin & Shaw in San Antonio today. We offer free initial consultations and work on a contingent fee basis, which means that there is never a fee unless we successfully resolve your case. Our experienced San Antonio employment lawyers will know how to deal with the employment discrimination so you don’t have to.
For immediate assistance and to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers, call us toll-free at 800-862-1260.
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