What Does California Law Say About Religious Discrimination At Work?
California and federal laws protect employees from discrimination at work based on their religious beliefs. The law requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for their employees’ sincerely-held religious beliefs, as well as religious “observances and practices.” California law also prohibits discrimination or retaliation against employees for requesting an accommodation for a religious practice, whether or not the request was actually granted.
If you are the victim of workplace discrimination based on religion, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer.
What Beliefs Qualify as A “Religion” Under the Law?
Under both Title VII and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), a religion or “religious creed” includes all aspects of religious belief, observance and practice. 42 USC § 2000e(j); Cal. Govt. Code § 12926(q). This includes beliefs and observances associated with well-known and traditionally recognized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
It also includes beliefs that are not part of any traditionally recognized religion. California law uses a three-part test to determine whether a religious belief, observance, or practice qualifies for protection:
- A religion addresses fundamental and ultimate questions having to do with deep and imponderable matters (e.g., the meaning and purpose of life, theories of humankind’s nature or its place in the universe, matters of human life and death, or the exercise of faith)
- A religion is comprehensive in nature, consisting of a belief system as opposed to an isolated teaching; and
- A religion can be recognized by the presence of certain formal and external signs.
If all three requirements are met, the belief, observance, or practice qualifies for protection under the FEHA. Friedman v. S. Cal. Permanente Med. Group (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 39, 69-70
Religious Dress and Grooming Are Protected
Under the FEHA, religious dress and grooming practices are beliefs or observances protected from discrimination. This includes head or face coverings, jewelry, headscarves, veils, facial hair, “and any other item that is part of the observance by an individual of his or her religious creed.” Cal. Govt. Code §§ 12926(q) & 12940(l)(1).
Sabbath & Holy Days
Additionally, California law protects employee observance of a Sabbath day or other religious holy days, as well as reasonable time necessary for travel before and after a religious observance. Cal. Govt. Code § 12940(l)(1).
Employers Must Make Reasonable Accommodations
When a conflict arises between a worker’s religious belief, observance, or practice and the requirements of the job, the employer is required to provide any reasonable accommodation to remove the conflict, unless doing so would cause an “undue hardship” for the employer. Cal. Govt. Code § 12940(l)(1).
Depending on the circumstances, reasonable accommodations could include schedule changes, voluntary shift trades, temporary transfer, excuse from duties that conflict with the religious belief or observance, or permitting duties to be performed at another time or by someone else. Reasonable accommodations may also mean transfer to another comparable position were conflicts are less like to occur. 29 CFR § 1605.2(d)(1); 2 Cal.C.Regs. § 11062(a).
Contact Our Orange County Office Today
If believe you are the victim of religious discrimination at work, you should consult an experienced employment lawyer. Give the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams a call today at 949-679-9909 for a free consultation. Delay could mean loss of your claim. You can also contact us through the form below and we will respond promptly.