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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Are Workers Protected From Hostile Work Environment Harassment Because Of Their Religious Beliefs?

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Throughout the past twenty years, our Citrus County employment discrimination lawyers have represented employees who have been required to work in a hostile environment. Having litigated hostile work environment harassment cases for decades, our Inverness, Florida employment discrimination attorneys know that employees continue to endure harassment because of their religious beliefs. In far too many cases, employers require employees to endure religious-based harassment as a condition of their employment and earning a living. In this article, our Citrus County employment discrimination lawyers explain how the decision in Stancu v. New York City/Parks Department, 2022 WL 4581844 (S.D. N.Y. Sept. 29, 2022) demonstrates that federal employment discrimination law protects employees from religious harassment.

Protection From Religious Harassment

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion. Title VII defines the term “religion” to include all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief. Title VII’s definition of religion means that employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of religious beliefs, observances, or practices. In interpreting Title VII, courts have determined that religious harassment is a form of religious discrimination forbidden by Title VII. To violate Title VII, religious harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile working

To protect employees from religious harassment, Title VII also imposes a remedial obligation on employers. Once an employer knows or should know of religious-based harassment in the workplace, the employer is obligated by Title VII to take prompt and effective corrective action to prevent the harassment from continuing. In fulfilling their remedial obligations, employers are generally required to conduct a thorough investigation and to take disciplinary action, ranging from reprimand to termination, against the offending harasser. When an employer takes no remedial action or the remedial action does not end the current religious-based harassment, the employer is deemed to have created and maintained a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

In Stancu,a man named Stancu brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, New York City/Parks Department (Parks Department), pursuant to Title VII. Stancu claims that he was subjected to hostile work environment harassment because of his religion in violation of Title VII.

Stancu is a “devout Christian of Eastern Orthodox Christian faith” and wears a beard due to his religious beliefs. From November 2018 until May 10, 202, Stancu was employed as an Urban Park Ranger with the City of New York’s Department of Parks and Recreations. On November 15, 2018, according to Stancu, a supervisor named O’Neill informed him that the Parks Department does not permit employees to have beards, and then, “in a belittlingly manner,” remarked that “we are not in the Stone Age.” Stancu responded that he has a beard due to his religious beliefs. The next day, O’Neill told Stancu to “prove his religious beliefs with a letter from the church.”

On November 23, 2018, Stancu complained to his union about the interaction. On the same day he also complained to the Office of the Parks Department Commissioner via telephone about the alleged religious discrimination he experienced. The Parks Department representative told Stancu that the Parks Department is an equal employment opportunity employer and, as an accommodation, Stancu would be permitted to keep his beard and not work on Sundays so that he could attend religious services.

“Go To Church & Work There”

Stancu, however, continued to experience harassment from O’Neill and other supervisors. O’Neill allegedly told Stancu “numerous times” that he would need to need to “choose between keeping his job or his beard.” Stancu also claims that he received “daily harassing questions” about the shape of his beard. After he made another complaint of religious discrimination to the Commissioner’s office, according to Stancu, his supervisors “ramped up their harassment against him, which became a daily routine.” For example, between August 15, 2019 and May 10, 2020, a supervisor photographed Stancu’s beard once a week. While the supervisor informed Stancu that he was directed to “keep a profile” of all employees’ beards, the supervisor did not take photographs of other employees’ beards. In January 2020, Stancu was informed that he would be transferred to Washington Square Park. Stancu alleges that the Parks Department knew that the Washington Square Park locker room and office was “infested with mold, rat poison, and carbon monoxide.”

On May 10, 2020, a supervisor placed in Stancu’s locker a note stating “Parks is not your church. Get [ ] out of here. Go to your church and work there.” On May 10, 2020, Stancu claims that he was “forced to resign” due to the religious-based harassment.

Evidence Of Hostile Work Environment

The Parks Department filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Stancu’s religious discrimination claim. The trial court denied the Parks Department’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Stancu’s allegations were sufficient to establish that the Parks Department created and maintained a religious-based hostile working environment in violation of Title VII. In support of its ruling, the trial court pointed to Stancu’s allegations he was told “go to your church and work there,” that he was asked to “prove his religious beliefs” with a letter from church, that he was made to work in a facility with a known health risk, and that he was told by his supervisors to “choose between keeping his job or his beard.” These allegations, the trial court concluded, demonstrated that Stancu was subjected to severe or pervasive religious-based harassment in violation of Title VII.

Citrus County, FL Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our employment discrimination attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of employment discrimination victims. If you have experienced religious discrimination at work or have questions about your protection from religious discrimination under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employment discrimination lawyers in Citrus County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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