What should employers know about civil rights and religion?

Employers in Louisiana, by law, are prohibited from discriminating against their employees based on religion under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Furthermore, employers are also prohibited from retaliating against an employee who alleges and complains about religious discrimination in the workplace. This prohibition on discrimination covers all manner of employment including the hiring and recruitment of employees, promotions and providing benefits.

Consequently, an employer must endeavor in good faith to provide reasonable accommodations requested by an employee or an applicant because of their sincerely held religious beliefs. It is important to keep in mind that under Title VII, religion is defined broadly so as not to be limited to include just the major world religions such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

The definition also applies to religious beliefs that are not as common as the majority world religions. Furthermore, there is no requirement that there be any affiliation to a formal sect or church of any kind and it doesn't matter if the tenets of the faith seem illogical or irrational.

It is also imperative that an employer recognize that an employee's religious beliefs and practices must be recognized as such even if the religious group that the employee claims adherence or affiliation to does not formally recognize it as such. As a matter of fact, it doesn't matter if there is no one else that recognizes or adheres to an employee's religious beliefs or practices. As long as an employee has a sincerely held belief, and requests religious accommodation in the workplace based on that sincerely held belief, the employer should accommodate the request unless the request is bound to cause undue hardship.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Questions and Answers: Religious Discrimination in the Workplace," Accessed July 13, 2015

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