California law gives broad protections to employees on the basis of religious belief.
One of the most challenging issues for many people to negotiate at work is their religion. Unlike race or gender, religion is not necessarily something that is obvious about a person, yet for many people, it is a fundamental part of who they are. Some employees may be afraid to ask their employers for accommodation for their religious practices, fearful of religious discrimination. Yet both federal and California law prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion. As a California employment discrimination attorney can explain, California state law provides much stronger protections than federal law — and should give workers peace of mind in knowing that they have the ability to request accommodations.
As an initial matter, it is important to know how California law defines religion. Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), a religious creed includes beliefs, observations or practices that a person sincerely holds and occupies in their life a place of importance parallel to that of traditionally organized religions. A religious belief includes observance of a Sabbath or other holy days, and the reasonable time necessary for travel before and after a religious observance. According to an experienced employment discrimination attorney, under FEHA, California employers are required to explore “available reasonable alternative means” of accommodating religious beliefs or observances.
In 2012, California passed the Workplace Religious Freedom Act. This expanded the definition to include all aspects of religious beliefs, such as religious dress and grooming practices. Under this law, employers must now accommodate head coverings and facial hair that are maintained for religious purposes.
Ultimately, these two laws combine to require California employers to make exceptions to their workplace standards when an employee has a religious belief or practice — unless it would be an undue hardship. As an employment discrimination attorney can explain, under California law, in order to qualify as an “undue hardship,” the accommodation must cause a significant difficult or expense to the business.
There are many examples of reasonable accommodations that employers may be required to make. If an employee wears a head scarf due to her religion, an employer must allow that employee to wear the scarf, even if the dress code prohibits head coverings of any type. Employees who need to pray during the day, or take certain days off for religious holidays, should also modify schedules in order to allow employees to pray on breaks or to potentially take off days to attend services.
These California laws are meant to ensure that all employees are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their religion. If an employee experiences discrimination in the workplace on the basis of religion, he or she may have a legal claim against the company. A skilled employment discrimination attorney can analyze the facts of the case and determine if there has been a violation of California or federal law.
At PLBSH, our skilled California employment discrimination attorney have more than 40 years of experience helping employees who have been discriminated against at work. Contact us today at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free initial appointment or to learn more today.