What constitutes religious discrimination?

Religious discrimination may include unnecessary garment bans, hate-filled segregation, activity participation requirements or ongoing harassment.

Workers in New Mexico and the rest of the country should feel safe at work, but discrimination in the workplace can lead to a hostile work environment. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there were 91,503 charges of discrimination filed over the course of a single year. Of those charges, 4.2 percent were said to be related to religious discrimination.

Banning garments or accessories

Employers are not supposed to ban garments or accessories, such as hijabs, cross necklaces or yarmulkes, simply because of their religious affiliations. When done for the wrong reasons, this type of banning could be considered discrimination. If a business has a strict dress code, it is supposed to make reasonable accommodations for a worker’s religious garments. For example, an employer may allow a customer service representative to openly wear his or her cross necklace because the accessory does not affect anyone else. On the other hand, an employee at a factory may not be allowed to wear his or her necklace because it poses a serious safety hazard.

Enforcing segregation

When an employer demotes a worker or places him or her in a certain seat because of religious affiliations, it can be considered discrimination. Segregation can include keeping workers of different faiths apart or stopping certain employees from interacting with clients. For example, if a man chooses to keep his hair and beard uncut because of his beliefs, an employer should not reassign him to keep him away from customers for fear that the clients will be uncomfortable.

Forcing participation

Not all religious discrimination stops an employee from doing something. Some businesses may try to require participation in certain activities as a condition of employment, and even this can be considered inappropriate for the workplace. Employers cannot make their workers pray or partake in another religious activity. Companies should also avoid making staff members feel forced to participate in nonreligious activities that go against their beliefs.

Allowing harassment

Finally, this type of discrimination can show itself in the form of a boss turning a blind eye to harassment. If a customer continually mocks an employee’s religion every time he or she comes into a convenient store, a supervisor may be tempted to ignore the teasing because it comes from someone shopping at the establishment. However, the employer should take steps to stop this negative behavior. Similarly, if the pestering comes from within the company, managers and supervisors should work together to ensure the person doing the mocking is appropriately chastised.

Workers in New Mexico are supposed to be protected from religious discrimination. If someone is treated unfairly due to religious affiliations, it may be beneficial to work with an attorney who is familiar with this type of case.