Most Maryland employees know that it is illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee based on his or her religion. Additionally, employers must reasonably accommodate the person’s religious practices and beliefs in the workplace unless this causes the employer “undue hardship.” An employee’s right to practice their religion or beliefs is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Although religion is legally protected, it can be difficult for courts to determine what actually constitutes as “religion.” In most cases, religion is something that an employee practices “sincerely.” The religion must influence the employee’s behavior as well as their ideas about “life, purpose and death.” However, religion does not include personal preferences such as jewelry, hairstyles or even diet. If a specific diet is required, the employee should be consistent in practicing avoidance of those food items.
In general, an employee needs to work with an employer to find an appropriate religious accommodation that is reasonable and will not cause the employer undue hardship. This may include a modification of the dress code, flexible schedules and non-disruptive prayer that takes place away from customer service areas.
An employee who is being unfairly treated at work due to religious discrimination may have the ability to take legal action against the employer. An employment law attorney could potentially assist with gathering the evidence that demonstrates that an employee was treated unfairly and differently as a result of the employee’s religion. These types of actions are most often initiated by the filing of a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or applicable state agency.