Does your religion affect your chance for promotion?

Sometimes taking a career to the next level is difficult, but not because you are not qualified. You perform your work well, you take on extra assignments and like other responsible employees, you occasionally put in some overtime. However, you are aware of an uncomfortable undercurrent at work. Because of certain comments, teasing or otherwise, you know a prejudice exists because of your religious beliefs. You may have been passed over for promotion, and you sense this is the reason. The problem now is what to do about it.

Religious discrimination is prohibited

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act join together to prohibit employers from allowing or engaging in religious discrimination. The law prohibits this kind of unfair practice in any aspect of employment: hiring or firing, job assignments, pay, benefits, training, layoffs or promotions. It is also illegal for anyone to harass you about your religion. Teasing that turns into more offensive comments that make your work environment uncomfortable is an example of religious harassment. This kind of discrimination can also adversely affect an employment decision that might otherwise have been made in your favor.

Making reasonable accommodation

Title VII calls upon your employer to provide reasonable accommodation for your religious beliefs and practices unless this would cause "undue hardship" relative to the operation of the business. This means, for example, that if you wear a headscarf, or hijab, in deference to your religion, your employer cannot move you from a position greeting the public to a back office job where you would see no one but employees. If challenged over this decision, the employer would have to explain in court why allowing you to remain as the public greeter would cause "undue hardship" for the business.

Accommodations employees should expect

There are many ways your employer might accommodate your religious beliefs or practices, such as voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, modifications to policies and practices, and flexible scheduling. You should be able to take leave for a religious observance, and your employer should allow you faith-based wearing apparel and grooming practices. If you have a particular need due to your religious beliefs, you should discuss it with your employer. It is not necessary that your request be fulfilled exactly as you wish; you and your employer should be able to reach compromise on a suitable accommodation.

Taking the next step

In terms of promotion, if you feel you have not received the proper consideration because of your faith, you may want to seek advice as to how you should handle the situation. Feel free to reach out to an attorney experienced in employment law who will stand up for your rights and offer the support you deserve.

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