Fired Due To Religious Discrimination in California

Updated: Sep 26

Everything You Need To Know About Religious Discrimination In California

Religious Beliefs and Practices are well-protected by the law. This holds true in California, one of the states that have the most worker protection laws against discrimination. That said, your employer cannot make employment decisions—such as hiring, firing, promotions, and pay—on the basis of your religion.

If you were a client, here's what your California Employment Attorney would say about Religious Discrimination in the workplace.

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What Protects You In California?

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) policies promulgated under it and a few similar provisions of federal law contain broad, powerful protections of California employees from religious discrimination at work. These provisions prohibit employers in California from discriminating against employees and others on religious grounds.

You can report an employer for religious belief discrimination if they do any of the following:

  1. Made employment decisions on the basis of your (or lack thereof) religious beliefs

  2. Failed or refused to give reasonable accommodations for someone's religious beliefs and practices.

When any of these happen, you will have the grounds to file complaints to the appropriate agencies. Consult with a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer to help you build a case and collect evidence to support your claims.

Who Is Protected Against Religious Belief Discrimination In California?

All religions and religious practices, not only major faiths, are protected.

Californians have a wide diversity of religious views. All of them, large religions and minor cults alike, are protected by civil rights laws.

According to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's (DFEH) regulations implementing FEHA, a "religious credo" protected under civil rights law includes:

  1. Any recognized religion, as well as any other beliefs, observances, or practices that an individual honestly holds and that have a place of importance in his or her life that is comparable to that of traditionally recognized faiths

  2. Includes religious attire and grooming traditions, as well as all aspects of religious belief, observation, and practice

Under the FEHA, any employment action taken against a job applicant or employee because of that person's religious views or practices, or lack thereof, is illegal discrimination. Here are several examples:

  1. Refusing to recruit someone because of their religious beliefs, including whether the person is religious or not

  2. When determining which employees to promote or how much to pay them, an employee's religious opinion is considered a factor or criteria

  3. Because of a religiously observant employee's wardrobe, an employer may fire, demote, or take other retaliatory action against the person

  4. Allowing a workplace atmosphere in which an employee's religious beliefs are mocked or criticized

  5. Because of the employee's religious grooming practices, they are barred from working in a job that requires contact with the company's customers or the general public

  6. Employees are separated/segregated, or their job responsibilities are assigned based on their religious beliefs

  7. An employee is fired after the employer finds out their (or lack thereof) religious beliefs and practices

  8. An employee is fired or isn't hired because the boss or hiring manager assumed their religious beliefs

Do note that this list of examples is not exhaustive. These are only a few of the many religiously motivated job behaviors that can be considered criminal discrimination. As a general rule, any action taken by an employer or supervisor that is motivated by religion risks violating the FEHA and federal law.

Apprenticeships and internships in many California job areas, such as entertainment, law, marketing, manufacturing, and the building trades, provide vital opportunities for Californians just starting out in the workforce to gain experience and set the groundwork for a career. Some of these jobs pay a small wage, but the majority are unpaid.

When it comes to the right to be free from religious discrimination, an apprentice's or intern's age, experience level, job term, or wage status are irrelevant. Apprentices and interns are protected from illegal religious discrimination to the same extent as full-time employees under California civil rights statutes.

Independent contractors are also protected from religious discrimination. Working as an independent contractor for a California company rather than as an employee does not imply giving up your rights. Independent contractors are protected from religious discrimination in two ways under California civil rights law:

  • Harassment of independent contractors on the grounds of their religious beliefs is clearly prohibited by the FEHA.

  • The Unruh Civil Rights Act provides all California residents, regardless of religion, "full and equal accommodations, benefits, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every sort whatsoever."

Religious organizations are exempt from religious discrimination rules in most cases, but not all. Religious groups and associations, such as churches, mosques, and synagogues, are generally protected from religious discrimination laws under state and federal law. Even if it is governed by an exempt religious institution, a private, for-profit religious company may not be entitled to the same exemption.

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A church recruiting a new youth minister, for example, can normally consider the religious beliefs of applicants when making its decision. However, that church's separately established, for-profit book publishing company may not be allowed to discriminate against applicants for editorial positions based on religion.

In addition, religious organizations may be held liable for other forms of discrimination. Because religious organizations frequently raise objections on religious freedom grounds anytime new legislation seeks to restrict their activities, this is an area of law that frequently sparks debate.

That said, if you qualify for these employment protections and have experienced discrimination at work, you should contact a California Employment Attorney to help you sort out your employment claims.

What Are Reasonable Accommodations For Religious Beliefs?

Avoiding the types of overt discriminatory practices outlined above is only one aspect of an employer's civil rights responsibility. Employees' religious beliefs and practices must also be accommodated in a fair manner by the company. According to DFEH guidelines:

A reasonable accommodation is one that avoids a conflict between the employee's religious practice and the job requirement. Accommodations for religious beliefs may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Job restructuring

  • Job reassignment

  • Modification of work practices

  • Allowing changes in schedules to avoid a conflict with his or her religious observation

For example, California law and regulations specifically state that reasonable accommodations include:

  • Interviews, exams, and other duties connected to job chances should be scheduled around religious observances, such as religious holidays or days of rest.

  • Providing time for employees to go to and from religious services or events.

  • Allowing employees to dress and groom according to religious guidelines, including the wearing of clothes, head coverings, jewelry, and facial hair.

  • Allowing employees to opt-out of union membership and/or dues if their religious beliefs prevent them from doing so.

  • Making hiring or firing choices in order to avoid having to provide reasonable religious accommodations, or retaliating against an employee for requesting one, is likewise criminal discrimination.

Again, this list is a non-exhaustive list. Your experience might be different than everyone else. For a more specific assessment of your case, contact a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer to know if you have grounds to file a discrimination claim.

Accommodations And Dress Codes

Employers must fairly accommodate an employee's religious beliefs unless it causes an undue hardship in the operation of the company. It is pertinent that you contact and consult with a California employment lawyer to assess your specific circumstances and determine whether your rights have been violated.

This relates to scheduling changes or time off for religious observances, as well as actions that an employee engages in for religious reasons, such as attire or grooming. Here are a few examples of clothing and grooming related to religion:

  • Wearing certain haircuts or facial hair

  • Wearing unique headcovers (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim hijab)

  • Wearing other sacred clothing are examples of this (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard)

An employer cannot demand that their employees not wear religious clothing are keep their symbolic hair. It is also considered discriminatory to force an employee to wear clothing that is considered a religious taboo (such as trousers or miniskirts).

If an employee or candidate requires a dress or grooming accommodation for religious reasons, he or she should inform the company. If the employer properly requests more information, the employer and the employee may engage in an open procedure to answer the request. If the accommodation is not too burdensome, the employer is required to provide it.

To file a claim for discrimination, a pre-screened California Employment Attorney will assist you in gathering all essential evidence.

Harassment In The Workplace

Harassing an employee because of his or her religious beliefs is unlawful in California. Harassment can take many forms, such as making disparaging remarks about a person's religious beliefs or conduct. An employment lawyer can assist you in determining whether you have sufficient proof of this form of discrimination.

Workplace harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or extreme that it creates a hostile and intolerable work environment. While the law does not prohibit simple mockery, offhand statements, or isolated events that are not very serious, it is illegal when it is so frequent or extreme that it creates a very hostile and intolerable work environment.

What If My Boss Gets Back At Me For Reporting Them?

If your employer punishes you for reporting them to the right authorities, then it is considered an act of Retaliation.

Filing a Labor Law Claim is a protected action in California. As a result, it is illegal to impose any employment decisions on an employee as a form of punishment or retaliation for exercising protected rights.

Employee retaliation can take a variety of forms. Termination, demotion, and wage decrease are examples of adverse employment actions.

The materiality test is commonly used in California court rulings to assess whether an action can be considered retaliation. The materiality test assesses whether a certain action is sufficient to have a negative impact on an employee's employment situation. Without demotion, a pay cut, or other consequences, job transfers and poor performance assessments would suffice in this test.

The protected activity and the adverse employment action must be linked in a retaliation claim. The employee bears the burden of establishing that the employer took unfavorable action against him or her because of protected activity.

The fact that the retaliatory action occurred soon after can aid in proving retaliation. When it comes to disciplinary actions, supervisors and managers don't always communicate with one another.

As a result, one supervisor could be oblivious of the protected activity while the other takes disciplinary action against the employee. The employer may not be liable for retaliation in these situations since the two occurrences are unrelated.

That said, if you ever experience retaliation for exercising your rights, contact a California Employment Attorney to help you file a Retaliation Claim. Having a lawyer by your side will make sure you are not vulnerable to underhanded tactics to silence you or accept a settlement that's less than you deserve.

Wrongful Termination In California Employment Law

Your boss cannot fire you for illegal reasons. These reasons include firing as an act of discrimination and termination as a retaliatory action. Let's look at how a Wrongful Termination Case goes down in California below:

California Wrongful Termination Claims Based On Discrimination

In California, an employer is prohibited from firing an employee based on protected characteristics, including religious beliefs. Some examples of other discrimination claims include: