Religious Discrimination

Have You Been Discriminated Against Due to Your Religion?

Posted in Religious Discrimination on February 2, 2016

CrossReligion is one of the greatest freedoms in America. Yet it is well known that depending on what religious affiliation you are a part of, you may be discriminated against. Arguably the worst place to be discriminated against is the place in which you make your livelihood. Discrimination in the workplace is is commonplace today, even if it is highly frowned upon and there are laws that protect First Amendment rights. If you or a loved one have been discriminated against in the workplace due to your religion, it is invaluable to contact an experienced New York religious discrimination attorney to fight on your behalf.

Your Religious Rights

Religious discrimination in the workplace is disheartening and can be frustrating when it affects how you feed yourself and your family. Religious discrimination can be prevalent at any part of the employment process, from hiring to firing. Religious discrimination comes in the form of harassment, refusing to hire, disparaging an employer’s religion, as well as preventing an employee from having contact with customers because religious garments. However, Title VII, New York State, and New York City have laws that protect you of your rights.

According to Title VII, religious discrimination involves treating a person, whether an applicant or employee, unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. It also involves treating a person discriminately because of his or her connections with a religious organization or group. Under both Title VII and New York State and City’s laws, an employer shall not discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of religion. Employers have a duty to make reasonable accommodations for employees who sincerely hold religious beliefs unless an employer demonstrates that such accommodation would subject it to an undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations include, but are not limited to:

  • Making exemptions to dress code and grooming requirements
  • Permitting Sabbath observance
  • Allowing reasonable breaks for prayer and other religious requirements.

Because the lines can become blurry as to what is “reasonable” accommodations, it is invaluable to seek legal representation from an experienced New York religious discrimination attorney to determine whether you have a case.

Need Legal Advice?

Religion is a First Amendment right that is not taken lightly. Yet, employers can, but do not have the right to, discriminate against you for your religious affiliation. If you or a loved one have been discriminated against because of your religion is important to seek legal advice. Contact The Law Offices of Joseph & Norinsberg at 212-JUSTICE or to speak with an experienced New York attorney about your rights. Contact our office today for an initial consultation.

Religious Discrimination: A New Case, an Old Case, and Your Case

Posted in Religious Discrimination on August 4, 2015

hands of religious manOverview of Religious Discrimination in New York

Employees in New York are protected from religious discrimination under two laws: New York’s State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act. Federal law doesn’t kick in until an employer has 15 employees but New York law covers companies with four employees or more.

The function of both laws is largely the same – to prohibit discrimination based on religion in the workplace and offer a remedy for those discriminated against. Under both laws, employers are prohibited from taking adverse actions (firing, demoting, reprimanding) against employees on the basis of their religion. They are also mandated to provide religious accommodations to an employee when doing so would not impose an undue hardship on the employer. These rights only apply to sincerely held religious beliefs.

For example, if it didn’t result in an unreasonable hardship to the employer, an employer would likely be required to allow an employee with a religious mandate to take a brief afternoon break for prayer mandated by their religion. 

A New Case

Things are heating up in New York federal court where the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a major religious discrimination case against UPS. The EEOC, a federal agency that helps enforce federal anti-employment discrimination laws, brought suit against UPS on behalf of male employees that were forced to comply with UPS’s look guidelines, which included shaving beards that some including Muslims and Rastafarians wore to comply with their religion. One employee was even allegedly told that “God would understand” if he shaved his beard.

How will this case turn out? An old case gives us some clues.

An Old Case

In an earlier employment law blog, we discussed the case of EEOC v. Abercrombie, which at the time was pending before the United States Supreme Court. As a refresher, that case involved a young woman who had been denied employment at Abercrombie & Fitch due to the headscarf worn to her interview because it conflicting with Abercrombie’s prohibition against head coverings.

The woman wore the headscarf, a hijab, for religious reasons but never expressly disclosed the purpose to her prospective employer. A decision was reached last month, with all but one Justice agreeing with the decision. The Court held that even where “An employer who acts with the motive of avoiding accommodation may violate Title VII even if he has no more than an unsubstantiated suspicion that accommodation would be needed.” The decision, aligned with common sense, shifts a heavier burden to employers with respect to preventing religious discrimination,

Your Case

If you have experienced an unexpected adverse employment event based on your religion or other classification, let the attorneys at Joseph & Norinsberg (Phone: 212-JUSTICE) help you evaluate and vindicate your legal rights under New York and Federal anti-discrimination laws.  We approach each case with an empathetic understanding of the emotional impact of such occurrences and a drive to remedy wrongful conduct in the employment context.

United States Supreme Court Faces Tough Decision on Religious Accommodations

Posted in Religious Discrimination on March 23, 2015

Both New York and federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against current or prospective employees based on their religion.  As part of this prohibition, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious practices.  It sounds simple enough, but in practice, new situations frequently arise where the employer’s obligation is less than clear.

The United States Supreme Court will soon be providing some much needed clarification on one issue: what is an employer’s obligation to offer an accommodation when a prospective employee does not explicitly tell the employer that a certain piece of attire is worn for religious reasons?  That may sound a little abstract, but the background of this religious discrimination casewoman wearing hijab elucidating.

Headscarf Against Company Policy

Like many teenagers, Samantha Elauf applied for a job at her local Abercrombie & Fitch in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Elauf didn’t get the job because of the hijab (headscarf) she wore to her interview.  The headscarf conflicted with Abercrombie’s “Look Policy” which prohibits head coverings and the color black in an effort to ensure that employees exude the company’s signature East Coast preppy look.

Elauf sued claiming the company’s refusal to hire her was religious discrimination under federal law.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal fair employment agency, agreed and took up Elauf’s case.  In its defense, Abercrombie raised the fact that Elauf never told her interviewers or anyone else at the company that she wore the headscarf for religious reasons.  The Abercrombie interviewers testified that they “thought” Elauf wore the headscarf for religious reasons.  Is that enough to prove religious discrimination?  It’s not clear under current case law.

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case

The case has worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently heard oral arguments.  The EEOC argued that an employer that “correctly understands” an applicant’s religion and refuses to hire them on that basis is subject to liability for religious discrimination, even where the prospective employee offers no explicit acknowledgement of their religion.  In contrast, Abercrombie’s lawyers argued that applicants should have to affirmatively tell employers about the religious reason behind their attire.

The Supreme Court justices were torn, but seemed to lean in favor of adopting a middle-ground approach where the employer would have an obligation to inform a prospective employee about its work rules and ask if the applicant could comply.  Theoretically, this would open the dialogue and provide the applicant with an opportunity to request an accommodation based on their religion.

Justice Alito provided perhaps the most memorable illustration of the day when he asked Abercrombie’s attorney to imagine four job applicants: “a Sikh man wearing a turban… a Hasidic man wearing a hat…a Muslim woman wearing a hijab and a Catholic nun in a habit.”  He then asked whether the attorney thought “that those people have to say, ‘we just want to tell you, we’re dressed this way for a religious reason. We’re not just trying to make a fashion statement.’”

We anticipate an opinion from the Supreme Court by the time its session wraps up in late June.  The decision will impact employers and prospective employees alike.

Have You Faced Discrimination?

If you think you’ve been discriminated against by your employer or a prospective employer based on your religion, contact the employment law attorneys Joseph & Norinsberg today at (212) JUSTICE or by e-mail at to discuss your legal options.

“Top Chef” Boils a Pot of Religious Discrimination

Posted in Religious Discrimination on September 3, 2014

Boiling PotTitle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion in the workplace.  Title VII lawsuits are complex and fact-intensive by their nature, and religious discrimination lawsuits involve many different aspects.  A high-profile religious discrimination case has recently been filed against restaurants owned by David Burke of “Top Chef” fame by a group of Muslim employees who claim they have been prohibited from practicing their religion.

According to the lawsuit, Muslim employees were systematically denied rights to practice their religion, and were retaliated against when they chose to exercise those rights.  For example, after a cleaning employee in the Bronx claimed that he was precluded from working on Friday nights to attend prayer services, he was still scheduled on Friday nights, and was disciplined for failing to show up for work.

What is Religious Discrimination?

Title VII prohibits employers from treating an applicant more or less favorably than other employees and/or applicants on the basis of their religious beliefs.  It is important to remember that just because your religious beliefs are unorthodox and not widely recognized, this does not mean that your employer can discriminate against you.  Indeed, so long as you adhere to sincerely held religious, ethics, or moral beliefs, and exercise practices consistent therewith, you are protected from discrimination under Title VII.

In addition to protection from discrimination based on your own religious beliefs, your employer may not treat you less favorably than someone else due to your marriage to or association with a member of a particular religious group.  Because more employers are discriminating and retaliating against employees on the basis of their religious beliefs as a means of increasing productivity and lowering the bottom line, EEOC charges and civil lawsuits are on the rise.  Do not let your employer engage in illegal activity.

It is also illegal to harass a person on the basis of his or her religion.  Harassment can include offensive remarks, degrading remarks, offensive conduct, or frequent or pervasive teasing.  When allowed to continue, this type of behavior is particularly concerning because it is often times not directly the employer who is engaging in the misconduct, but members of the staff, co-workers, or management employees.  If you believe you have been a victim of religious discrimination or harassment, do not hesitate to contact an employment attorney today.

An Employment Attorney Can Assist you in Recovering Damages

Religious discrimination cases are some of the most complex employment law issues facing employers and employees in today’s workforce.  Many of the issues are fact intensive and require systematic analysis by a trained employment attorney.  Indeed, many employers think they are protecting their overall workforce when they are in fact discriminating against employees based on their religion. Religious discrimination is poor business practice and a violation of your civil rights. Therefore, non-compliant employers must be made to pay.  The employment lawyers at the Law Offices of Joseph & Norinsberg will fight for you. Contact us today at 212-JUSTICE or for a free consultation.

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