Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers with at least 15 employees, as well as employment agencies and unions, from discriminating in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. It also prohibits retaliation against persons who complain of discrimination or participate in an EEO investigation. With respect to religion, Title VII prohibits:
- treating applicants or employees differently based on their religious beliefs or practices - or lack thereof - in any aspect of employment, including recruitment, hiring, assignments, discipline, promotion, and benefits (disparate treatment);
- subjecting employees to harassment because of their religious beliefs or practices - or lack thereof - or because of the religious practices or beliefs of people with whom they associate (e.g., relatives, friends, etc.);
- denying a requested reasonable accommodation of an applicant's or employee's sincerely held religious beliefs or practices - or lack thereof - if an accommodation will not impose more than a de minimis cost or burden on business operations;1 and,
- retaliating against an applicant or employee who has engaged in protected activity, including participation (e.g., filing an EEO charge or testifying as a witness in someone else's EEO matter), or opposition to religious discrimination (e.g., complaining to human resources department about alleged religious discrimination).
The following questions and answers were adapted from EEOC's Compliance Manual Section on Religious Discrimination, available here, which contains more detailed guidance, legal citations, case examples, and best practices. It is designed to be a practical resource for employers, employees, practitioners, and EEOC enforcement staff on Title VII's prohibition against religious discrimination, and provides guidance on how to balance the needs of individuals in a diverse religious climate.