If you own a Connecticut business, it’s imperative to understand the basics of anti-discrimination law. One sometimes overlooked area is religious discrimination.
Connecticut employees have a number of state and federal protections against religious discrimination in the workplace. But this doesn’t only forbid employers from treating workers differently because of religious beliefs. Businesses must also permit reasonable accommodations to practitioners of religion.
Have you reviewed your company’s practices to identify policies that may be discriminatory? Have you been hit with a religious discrimination lawsuit? It’s time to call the Connecticut business attorneys of Aeton Law Partners.
“Religious Discrimination” as Defined in Connecticut
Discrimination against employees on the basis of religion, or lack thereof, is illegal. This covers overt prejudicial treatment based on religion. But it also addresses otherwise neutral policies that have a disproportionate impact on religious beliefs. Failure to accommodate someone’s beliefs – or non-belief – may also be discrimination.
Some specific examples of religious discrimination in the workplace include:
- Hiring, firing, promotion, or career advancement decisions based on religion
- Failure to extend company benefits to someone because of his or her religion
- Employment conditions and terms that amount to religious discrimination
- Refusing to allow a reasonable exception to company policies
- Religiously-motivated hostile work environments and workplace harassment
- Retaliation against an employee for reporting religious discrimination, or threatening to do so
Your existing company policies may inadvertently permit these and other types of discrimination. If you are unsure whether they do, consult a Connecticut business law attorney.
Reasonable Workplace Accommodations
The law requires employers to make reasonable exceptions to their employment policies. This is particularly applicable when seemingly neutral policies disproportionately impact one particular religious group. One example might be a company policy that prohibits facial hair, which may affect members of different religious groups.
The key word is “reasonable.” Employers are not obligated to do everything imaginable to accommodate one’s religious beliefs. Any requested accommodation that imposes an undue burden on the employer can rightfully be denied. This allows a possible defense for the employer.
Of course, what counts as an undue burden varies from one case to another. Courts considering whether an unreasonable hardship would result from an accommodation will consider factors such as:
- The type of workplace and the nature of work involved
- The aggrieved employee’s duties
- The cost the employer would incur by providing the accommodation
- What effect the accommodation may have on workplace safety, productivity, the rights of other employees, etc.
Courts will also consider whether religion is a “bona fide occupational qualification.” This describes a job situation in which a person must be of a certain religion to fulfill a job requirement. For example, churches can legally require their pastors to be Christians. This is a fairly narrow exception but it does protect certain employers.
Defending Connecticut Employers From Religious Discrimination Lawsuits
If your business has been accused of religious discrimination, it’s imperative to put forth a strong defense. It may be possible to resolve such lawsuits using alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation.
Your business may not yet be the subject of litigation, but its practices could put it at risk of one. A knowledgeable Connecticut business law attorney can examine your company’s practices and policies. This review can be used to identify and mitigate the risk of a potential lawsuit.
Aeton Law Partners provides comprehensive legal services to businesses, both inside and outside the courtroom. Don’t let a religious discrimination lawsuit cost your company money. Give our firm a call today.