Religious Discrimination - FAQs
Select any of the questions below to get quick answers to some common questions about religious discrimination.
- What are some examples of religious harassment?
- Are all religious beliefs covered by the laws enforced by EEOC?
- What should I do if I need to request a workplace change because of my religion?
- Does my employer have to grant every request I make for a workplace change because of my religious beliefs?
- Can my employer refuse to grant my request to wear religious garb, such as a turban, because it might make co-workers, clients, or customers uncomfortable?
- What are some common religious practices that might require a workplace change?
- Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass someone of his or her own religion?
- Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of your religion and some other prohibited reason, like national origin?
- Can my employer discriminate against or harass me if I have a friend or parent of a different religion?
- Can my employer require me to participate, or not participate, in a religious activity as part of my employment?
- Can my employer require me to remove religious items from my workspace?
- When can an employee request a workplace change for religious reasons?
- Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is religious discrimination?
Religious harassment involves unwelcome and religiously offensive conduct in the workplace. Religious harassment can include negative or offensive remarks or jokes about a person's religion or religious garments; religious slurs; or other verbal or physical conduct based on an individual's religion or religious beliefs.
The laws enforced by EEOC define religion very broadly. The protection against religious discrimination is not limited to mainstream religions, but also applies to any lawful observances and practices that are based on one's own sincerely held beliefs. However, mere personal preferences are not protected. In addition, social, political and economic philosophies are not covered by the laws enforced by EEOC.
You have a responsibility to let your employer know that you need a workplace change because of your religious beliefs. Your request does not need to be in writing, but you must provide your employer with enough information so that your employer knows you need some type of workplace change because of a sincerely-held religious belief.
Does my employer have to grant every request I make for a workplace change because of my religious beliefs?
No. However, your employer must carefully consider each request and whether it would be possible. An employer might not have to grant your request if it would be costly, have a negative impact on efficiency, reduce workplace safety, or have a negative impact on the rights of other employees.
Can my employer refuse to grant my request to wear religious garb, such as a turban, because it might make co-workers, clients, or customers uncomfortable?
No. Employers may not refuse your request to wear a turban, or other similar religious garb, at work solely because it might upset co-workers, clients, or customers.
Some of the religious practices that may require a workplace change, include (1) observance of a Sabbath or religious holiday; (2) need for prayer break during work hours; (3) practice of following strict or particular dietary requirements; (4) practice of not working during a mourning period for a deceased relative; or (5) practices relating to dress and/or personal grooming. These are only a few examples. Your employer must consider whether it would be possible to make a workplace change for all sincerely-held religious beliefs.
Yes. It is illegal for individuals to discriminate against or harass people of their own religion. For example, a Middle Eastern Muslim may not discriminate against a Black Muslim because of a religious, racial, or ethnic stereotype.
Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of your religion and some other prohibited reason, like national origin?
Yes. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because of the combination of your religion and some other protected category, like national origin or race. For example, an employer may not refuse to hire Jewish females, even if it hires other females or Jewish males.
Can my employer discriminate against or harass me if I have a friend or parent of a different religion?
No. The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit an employer from treating you differently or harassing you because your friends, parents, or other people you associate with belong to a particular religion. You also may not be discriminated against or harassed because you belong to a religious-based organization or attend schools or places of worship associated with a particular religious group.
Can my employer require me to participate, or not participate, in a religious activity as part of my employment?
No. For example, an employer cannot require you to attend prayer meetings, or forbid employees to pray during their break time.
The answer to this question depends on your company's policy about displaying personal items, what you want to display, and how visible your workspace is to others. For example, you should be allowed to hang a small religious calendar in your cubicle if your employer allows employees to decorate their work stations with personal items, such as posters, calendars or non-religious pictures. On the other hand, you may not be able to put up religious items if your employer does not permit any personal items in employee work stations, or, for example, if your work station is the company's front desk.
You can make a request for a workplace change at any time during the application process or during your employment. However, it is best to ask an employer for a workplace change as soon as you know that you need one.
No. It is illegal for your employer to punish you, treat you differently, or harass you because you report discrimination to someone at your company, to EEOC, or to your parents, your teacher, or another trusted adult. This is true even if it turns out that the conduct you complained about is not found to be discrimination. We refer to this as your right to be protected from retaliation.