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Increase in workplace religious discrimination cases during 2011

Employees' claims of religious discrimination in the workplace are continuing to increase throughout the U.S. Some attributing factors to this may be better employee awareness of one's rights under state and federal laws as well as an increasingly diverse workforce in San Diego and throughout the entire country.

Some also speculate that the rise of religious fundamentalism may have caused some people to be less tolerant of religions different than their own. Inherently, there may be some tension between employees, devout in a particular religion, who try to proselytize for their faith among co-workers, some of whom may resent this if they are proponents of another religion, or none, or simply wish to be left alone.

Last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported receiving 4,151 claims of religious discrimination. This represented a substantial 9.5 percent hike from the year before, with the increase in these types of claims having continued since roughly 2005. Overall, the number of such claims may have more than doubled since 1997.

Workers of many religions have asserted religious discrimination claims. There have been a number of notable cases in which workers contend that they were subjected to anti-Muslim bias on the job, while employees of other faiths have also complained of employers' alleged failures to reasonably accommodate their sincerely held religious beliefs and practices.

Some of the most frequent issues are employees needing time off to observe religious holidays and traditions, or issues concerning the wearing of religious apparel, such as Muslim women wishing to wear head scarves on the job.

The growth in the number of employee complaints about religious discrimination points to a need for employers to better foster an atmosphere of tolerance in the workplace, and to train managers, supervisors and co-workers on the legal obligation to respect and accommodate employees' sincere religious beliefs and practices.

Source: Business Insurance, "Religious discrimination claims in the workplace rising," Judy Greenwald, Feb. 12, 2012