Both federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees because of their religion. The courts have further ruled that the prohibition against religious discrimination requires you to accommodate your employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would cause undue hardship to your business. You might assume, then, that for an employee to prove religious discrimination, she would have to demonstrate both the sincerity of her belief and that the belief is actually “religious” in nature. According to a recent decision from the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, however, that isn’t necessarily the case.
On Monday, June 1, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and against Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc. in a religious discrimination lawsuit involving a Muslim job applicant at its Tulsa store. In some ways, the Supreme Court’s decision may have the unintended result of causing some employers to ask applicants and employees about their religious beliefs or trigger unfortunate workplace stereotyping.
by Joseph Cooper
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination on the basis of national origin in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, and job assignments. Because an employee’s accent or language skills are often associated with her national origin, employment decisions based on those characteristics are scrutinized closely by courts and administrative tribunals. A recent decision from the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (RICHR) illustrates that point.
Teacher wants to take English classes
Imagine you employ Rajesh Tank, an employee of Indian descent, as a regional VP. Other employees report that Tank engaged in unprofessional conduct that hurt team morale, showed favoritism toward certain employees, and pressured employees to hire a particular contractor. You investigate the allegations, find some truth to them, order Tank to terminate the contractor, and place him on a corrective action coaching plan.
Tank then reports inappropriate racial workplace comments and objects to the level of discipline meted out to the employee who made the comments. He engages in unprofessional conduct after being placed on the corrective plan, and despite your request that he terminate the contractor, he doesn’t. He also raises concerns that he is being discriminated against in the workplace. As a result of coworkers’ complaints about him, you conduct a second investigation and conclude that discharge is the appropriate course of action.
Discussions about “microaggression” have become more common in the mainstream media. A simple Google search reveals college websites documenting students’ recently experienced microaggressions and articles analyzing microaggression from major media sources, including National Public Radio and the New York Times. This article provides the definition of microaggression, examines a recent case from a federal court that likely involved microaggression (although the conduct wasn’t described using that particular label), and provides a bottom line for employers.
What is microaggression?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allows employers on or near an Indian reservation to give preferential treatment to Indians living in the vicinity. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken the position that this provision doesn’t permit preference for members of a particular tribe. In the continuing saga of a case that has dragged on for years, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal (whose rulings apply to all Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington employers) recently issued its third decision, finally ruling against the EEOC.
Coal company leases have Navajo hiring preference
Religious accommodations in the workplace can be challenging for employees and employers to navigate. In our increasingly diverse and religiously pluralistic society, an employee’s religious practices may conflict with practices in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against any individual with respect to the terms of employment because of his or her religion. So when an employee’s weekly observance of the Sabbath prevents him or her from working on a certain day, what is an employer to do? It depends.
Proving religious discrimination
Most employers know they have to make reasonable accommodations for an otherwise qualified employee with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But you may not know that the task of determining what qualifies as a reasonable accommodation doesn’t fall solely on you. A recent court decision reminds employers and employees that when it comes to reasonable accommodations, the recipe for success includes both parties’ input on what accommodations are appropriate.
Paper or plastic?
On September 25, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed two lawsuits, the first actions by the agency in which it has alleged that discharging an employee because she is transgender constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex and therefore violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In light of the increasing societal and judicial recognition of LGBT rights, employers must be aware of the potential workplace issues faced by employees who don’t conform to traditional gender norms.
On October 17, 2014, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne issued a directive to the state’s 15 county clerks that they could begin immediately issuing licenses for same-sex marriages. With that letter, Arizona became the 30th state to permit same-sex marriage and recognize same-sex marriages celebrated in other states and countries. Horne’s action came near the end of a dramatic two weeks that saw the number of states recognizing same-sex marriage rise from 19 to 32 by the end of the day on October 17, when Alaska and Wyoming also joined the parade (the number climbed to 33 on November 12 when a judge ordered South Carolina officials to stop enforcing a ban on same-sex marriage). With 17 states making same-sex marriage legal in 2014 and appeals in progress in 7 of the remaining 17 states with same-sex marriage bans, a closer look at the Arizona shift can be instructive for many employers.
Waving the white flag