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West Coast Employment Lawyers is open 24/7 and fully operational during the COVID-19 quarantine. We are available to serve all of our personal injury clients, as well as potential new clients. Please feel free to contact us anytime.

Top Ranked

Employment Law Firm in California

Top Ranked

Employment Law Firm in California

What Are My Religious Rights In The Workplace?


In the eyes of the law, a person’s religious beliefs do not matter. The law is not concerned with favoring one group of individuals over another, but with creating equal opportunities for everyone to thrive under. Every employee is entitled to protection against religious discrimination, whether their choice of spiritual practice falls outside the country’s mainstream practices.

Federal law (Title VII) and California law (California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) both prohibit employers from engaging in religious discrimination, which means that employers cannot make job related decisions based on a job applicant or employee’s religious practices. Harassment based on religion is unlawful, and as long as it doesn’t create undue hardship, employers are generally required to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices.

Religious Beliefs Explained

All employees and job applicants are entitled to protection from religious discrimination. These protections extend to employees who do not have religious beliefs, such as agnostic and atheist individuals. This means, for example, that a religious employer cannot refuse to interview or hire an agnostic or atheist job applicant simply because that individual is not part of an organized religious practice.

It’s important to recognize that employees do not need to be part of a mainstream religion to be protected against religious discrimination in the workplace. An employee’s beliefs simply need to be religious in nature and sincerely held in order to receive protection against religious discrimination.

What does it mean for a belief to be sincerely held?

Below are three factors that can indicate whether an employee’s religious belief is not sincerely held:

  • Is the timing of an employee request suspicious? (for example, did an employee request for accommodations come soon after the same employee had already requested the same benefit, but for a different reason?)
  • Does the employee behave inconsistently with his or her professed beliefs?
  • Does the employer have reason to believe an employee is actually seeking the benefit for secular and not religious reasons?

Beliefs are religious as long as they occupy the place of religion in an employee’s life. An employee’s beliefs must be meaningful for the believer, and they must revolve around meaningful concepts, such as life and death. As long as an employee’s beliefs fulfill a similar role to that which is filled by the God of mainstream religions, they are protected. 

Simply put: an employee does not need to belong to a mainstream religion to receive protection from religious discrimination: even sects and offshoots are entitled to protection.

Let’s consider an example. What if there’s an employee whose religious beliefs contradict the core teachings of the religion they claim allegiance to? This employee’s beliefs will also be protected. For example, if an employee belongs to a Catholic Church whose views on celibacy and gay rights are radically different than those of the Vatican, they will still be protected from religious discrimination, even if their beliefs differ from the Catholic Church’s official doctrine.

As long as an employee’s beliefs are sincerely held, an employer is required to accommodate them. Fortunately, employee beliefs are usually sincerely held and are rarely brought into question. In rare instances when the sincerity of an employee’s beliefs is in doubt, it’s likely that the employee just wants an exception to the rules.

For example, an employee with multiple tattoos may inform their employer that covering up his or her tattoos goes against their religious beliefs. However, if the employer has reason to believe that this employee is trying to avoid the rules and is not acting from a place of sincerity, the employer can deny this accommodation.

Sincerely Held Beliefs Are Not Necessarily Religious

What about deeply held, personal beliefs that are very meaningful for someone, but which are not religious in nature? Many people have deeply held social or political beliefs that form an integral part of their worldview, but that doesn’t make them religious in nature. Again, it’s the motivation behind a belief or a practice that determines if it’s religious or not.

One employee, for example, may choose to wear a head covering in public because she’s Muslim and that’s a way for her to express modesty. On the other hand, another employee may choose to wear a head covering simply because she is embarrassed about her hair. The first employee is motivated by religious beliefs. The second is not.

What Can West Coast Employment Lawyers Do For You?

If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The religious discrimination lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling religious discrimination cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.

We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a religious discrimination attorney in California, contact our office at 1-800-247-9235.


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