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Religious Discrimination in New York and New Jersey Q&A

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for above-the-bar-logo-no12.jpgQ: I recently applied for a job at a well known clothing store. After the store manager offered me the position, I informed him that due to my religious beliefs, I could not work on Saturdays. He then told me that was unacceptable and took the job offer back. Is this religious discrimination and if so, what can I do?

Our Religion Discrimination Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala have helped hundreds attain justice for being discriminated against as well as obtain reasonable accommodation for their religious beliefs.

Your question brings to mind a recent case that the EEOC recently brought against Tri-County Lexus, a car dealership, for refusing to hire a Sikh man, Gurpreet S. Khera, for a sales job because he wouldn’t shave his beard because of his religious beliefs. Sikh religion requires him to wear a beard, have long hair and a turban. Khera had prior sales experience and impressed Tri-County’s recruiter who had him attend a multi-day training at the dealership. Khera was told at the end of the training that he would have to shave off his beard if he wanted the job because the dealership had a grooming policy against facial hair. Khera was rejected for the job because he refused to shave off his beard for religious reasons.

The EEOC has stated that where “a reasonable accommodation can be made, the law prevents an employer from requiring an employee to choose between being hired and following his or her religious practices.” The EEOC added that allowing “Mr. Khera to wear his beard because of religious belief would not have been a burden on the dealership.”

It is illegal to discriminate against a person because of their religious beliefs. Your employer cannot discriminate against you regarding any aspect of employment, including but not limited to hiring, firing, promotions, layoffs, training, compensation, or job placement. Furthermore, your employer must reasonably accommodate your religious beliefs and practices unless doing so would cause undue hardship. This means that your employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments so that you can practice your religion. Examples of this include flexible scheduling, job reassignments and voluntary shift swaps.

This accommodation also extends to religious clothing and grooming practices. For example, your employer cannot discriminate against you if you are Jewish and you wear a yarmulke on your head, if you are Sikh and you wear a beard and turbin, or if you are a female Muslim who wears a headscarf. Your employer can refuse to accommodate you if doing so is costly, interferes with workplace safety, is not efficient, or infringes on other workers’ rights.

Since the September 11th attacks on our country, the number of claims of religious discrimination filed with the EEOC have been increasing every year. Furthermore, as the melting pot of this country grows with more ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity, we will continue to see more religion discrimination claims. If you require religious accommodation, document your request to your employer. Your employer should at least explore all options on accommodating you before denying your request. If you believe you are being discriminated against because of your religious beliefs or religious practice, our experienced Religion Discrimination Attorneys at Villanueva and Sanchala can help you protect your employment rights as well as your right to practice your religion.

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