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Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore

Religious Discrimination

It is illegal, under state and federal law, for an employer to make a decision that negatively affects an employee or potential employee based on his or her religious beliefs or lack thereof. An employer must also make reasonable accommodations to allow an employee to practice his or her faith. A person facing a negative employment action, an employer’s failure to accommodate a religious practice or harassment may be entitled to redress.

Connecticut Religious Discrimination Lawyer

If you have faced discrimination on the job due to your religion, or because you do not have religious beliefs, a dedicated Hartford lawyer can help you seek the relief to which you are entitled. Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore represents people throughout Connecticut who have been the victim of unlawful discrimination at the workplace. If you believe you have faced a negative employment decision due to your religion, including termination, fill out our online form so we can review the details of your case.

Our clients come from across the state, including Hartford, Bridgeport, Greenwich, Milford, Danbury, Stamford, Fairfield, Waterbury and New Haven.

Key Issues in Religion-Based Discrimination Cases

If you believe you may have been the victim of illegal discrimination based on religion, there are a few important elements to look out for:

  • Have you faced a negative employment decision, including termination, refusal to hire, refusal to promote or an unwanted transfer due to your religion?
  • Have you faced harassment, including negative comments or jokes, about your religion at work?
  • Has your employer refused to make certain reasonable accommodations to allow you to practice your religion?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may have been the victim of illegal workplace discrimination based on your religion.

Overview of Religious Discrimination Law

Religious Discrimination Prohibited by Law

Both the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act forbid employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s religion or lack thereof. This includes termination, refusal to promote, refusal to hire or any other negative decision.

As an example, Jake is an atheist and is up for a promotion to vice president at a hardware store chain based in New Haven. During an interview, the president begins asking him about personal details, saying he doesn’t know Jake well enough. He asked what church Jake attends. Jake says he does not attend a church. When pressed, Jake says he does not believe in a god.

Jake is denied the promotion. The president says the company has a “moral view” and Jake does not share it. Jake may have a case for religious discrimination.

If an employer harasses an employee (or allows him to be harassed) due to his or her religious beliefs, including taunts, jokes or any other way of singling a person out, that is also in violation of the law.

Exceptions to Religions Discrimination Protections

Both federal law and Connecticut law contain narrow exceptions that do allow certain employers to make decisions based on an employee’s religion in a few circumstances. Both allow an employer to use religion as a factor when it is a “bona fide occupational qualification,” meaning a person has to be a certain religion to fulfill the job description.  Federal law also carves out an exception for schools.

For instance, if Jake the atheist applied to be a pastor at a Christian church, the church is free to decline because of his religion.

Reasonable Accommodations for Religion

If a person is qualified for a job with a reasonable accommodation (i.e., an accommodation that does not create an undue hardship), the employer must at least engage with the employee in discussions about the accommodation.  An undue hardship is a step that involves significant difficulty or expense.

A reasonable accommodation may be allowing variations in the dress code or uniform for religious head gear or other symbols, allowing short breaks to pray or conduct other activities, giving a day off for an important holiday, arranging the schedule so the employee does not have to work on a Saturday, Sunday or other important day, or arranging duties so an employee does not have to do tasks that violate his or her beliefs.

Samiya is a Muslim and works as an administrative assistant in Fairfield. She practices Salat, a pillar of the Islamic faith, in which she quietly prays in certain positions facing east five times per day. The process takes her just a few minutes. Two of the times she prays fall during the workday: One time around noon and another in the afternoon.

Her boss, Fred, says she cannot take a break in the afternoon, saying he expects too many important phone calls during this time. While another worker is able to take the calls during the few minutes Samiya would be praying, Fred says Samiya’s religion should be “no one else’s responsibility.” Samiya may have a case for refusal to make reasonable accommodations for her religious beliefs.

Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore |  Connecticut Attorney for Workplace Religious Discrimination

If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination on the basis of your religion in Connecticut, contact Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore for skilled representation. An employment lawyer from Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore will seek justice for you, which could include monetary damages. Fill out our online form so we can review the details of your case.