Religious Discrimination Laws in California

Religious Discrimination Laws: What Workers Need to Know

In California, it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because of his or her religion – and if you’ve been discriminated against on this basis, you may need a religious discrimination lawyer in LA or Glendale.

Religious Discrimination Laws: What Workers Need to Know

California law says that employers must not refuse employment, refuse to choose someone for a training program that leads to employment, fire someone, or discriminate against someone when it comes to pay or privileges of employment due to that person’s religious belief or observances except in one case: “Unless the employer or other entity covered by this part demonstrates that it has explored any available reasonable alternative means of accommodating the religious belief or observance, including the possibilities of excusing the person from those duties that conflict with the person’s religious belief or observance or permitting those duties to be performed at another time or by another person, but is unable to reasonably accommodate the religious belief or observance without undue hardship.”

The California Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 and federal law make religious discrimination illegal in the workplace. The act amended the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, prohibiting discrimination and requiring employers to accommodate employees’ religious practices and observances.

From the act:

  • “Religious belief or observance” includes religious dress and grooming practices
  • Accommodation for religious practices is not reasonable if it requires the employee to be segregated from customers or the general public

California’s Religious Discrimination Law

The Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, already prohibited employers from discriminating based on religious creed, which is a broad term that covers beliefs and practices. You don’t have to be part of a mainstream religion to benefit from FEHA – you only have to have belief systems that you “sincerely hold.”

The Workplace Religious Freedom Act, or WRFA, clarified that religious dress and grooming practices are definitely part of belief and observance, and these include:

  • Wearing or carrying religious accessories
  • Wearing religious clothing, including head or face coverings
  • All forms of head, facial and body hair

The act also made clear that employers making accommodations that required separating the employee from customers or the general public aren’t reasonable – in fact, you could argue that those types of “accommodations” aren’t really accommodations at all. Reasonable accommodations can include:

  • Job restructuring
  • Reassignment
  • Modification of work practices
  • Allowing time off to avoid conflict with religious observances

But it’s unreasonable for an employer to take an employee who regularly interacts with the public and force him or her to switch to another position where he or she no longer interacts with the public. (There was a case in 2002 when a Sikh man who wore a turban was segregated from the public as an “accommodation.”)

Like with most accommodations, employers don’t have to make them for religious purposes if it would cause an “undue burden.” However, to determine undue burden in these cases, the courts evaluate:

  • The nature of the accommodation necessary
  • How much the accommodation would cost the employer
  • The employer’s overall financial resources
  • How many people are employed at the facility
  • The effect on expenses and resources at the facility if the accommodation is made
  • The type of operations the company performs

Have You Been Discriminated Against for Your Religious Beliefs? You May Have Recourse Under California Religious Discrimination Laws.

If you suspect your employer has violated your rights concerning California religious discrimination laws, you may benefit from talking to an employment attorney in Glendale or Los Angeles.

Call us at 818-617-9706 or toll-free at 800-774-4163 for a complimentary consultation. We want to hear what happened to you and determine whether you have a case. If you do, we may be able to get you the compensation you deserve.