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How workers’ religion is protected under the law

It has been more than two months since we discussed the outcome of a woman’s employment discrimination lawsuit against preppy clothing chain Abercrombie & Fitch. As a reminder, the woman was not hired as a salesperson because managers decided that her Muslim headscarf, known as a hijab, was not acceptable attire.

The woman prevailed in her suit before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that potential employees need not ask for their religious rights to be honored while applying for a job for the employer to be obligated to honor those rights. Among those rights is for employees to have their religious beliefs reasonably accommodated at their workplace.

This means that the employer must provide accommodation, as long as the worker can still do his or her work in a satisfactory manner. For example, say a Jewish employee wants to take the day off due to a religious holiday. In most cases, this would be a reasonable accommodation. Or say a Muslim woman wears a burqa because of her beliefs. This should be fairly easy to accommodate for most employers.

Besides that, workers enjoy protection against workplace discrimination on the basis of faith, such as not being hired or promoted because of their religion, thanks to laws like the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Unfortunately, in 2015 some employers continue to discriminate against certain religions in the workplace, or fail to provide reasonable accommodations for their employees’ religious beliefs, rituals or apparel. To protect themselves and others from these insidious practices, workers have the right to seek compensation in court.