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Fighting For Religious
Freedoms Of Employees
The Employee's Voice And Advocate

Gainesville Lawyers For Employee Rights & Discrimination Victims

For more than twenty years, our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination lawyers have fought for the religious freedoms of employees. Having dedicated their practice to fighting for employees’ rights, our Gainesville, Florida employment discrimination attorneys know that employers often violate the religious freedoms of employees. In refusing to acknowledge religious freedom in the workplace, employers make employment decisions based on religion, fail to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs, harass employees because of their religious beliefs, and punish employees who do not hold their religious beliefs. Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination lawyers are dedicated to protecting and vindicating the religious freedoms of employees.

Laws Prohibiting Religious Discrimination

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which is federal law, and the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA), which is Florida law, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any individual with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment on the basis of religion. The protection against religious discrimination extends to all employees and applicants for employment. Title VII and the FCRA forbid religious discrimination with respect to all aspects of employment, including hiring, job assignments, compensation, demotion, advancement, discipline, layoff, and discharge. When an employer subjects an employee to an adverse employment action, such as demotion or termination, because of the employee’s religion, the employee has been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of religion in violation of Title VII and the FCRA.

Title VII and the FCRA also impose upon employers the affirmative obligation to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs or practices, unless the employer proves that a reasonable accommodation was not provided because it would have imposed undue hardship on the conduct of its business. An employer’s duty to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious belief or practice is triggered when there is a conflict between an employee’s religious belief or practice and an employment requirement. When an employer fails to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious belief or practice and subjects the employee to an adverse employment because of the employee’s failure to comply with the employment requirement, the employer has engaged in illegal religious discrimination under Title VII and the FCRA, unless the employer demonstrates that accommodating the employee’s religious belief or practice would have caused undue hardship.

Definition Of Religion Under Federal Law

Title VII defines the term “religion” to “include[ ] all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.” Title VII’s broad definition of religion means that employers are forbidden from discriminating against an employee on the basis of his or her religious beliefs, observances, or practices. Title VII’s broad definition of religion also means that employers are required to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs, observances, or practices. When an employer discriminates against an employee because of the employee’s religious beliefs, observances, or practices, or fails to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs, observances, or practices absent undue hardship, the employer has discriminated against the employee on the basis of religion.

Under Title VII, it is also an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against an employee because he or she does not adhere to the employer’s religion, regardless of the religion or lack of religion of the employee. Thus, employers are also forbidden from discriminating against employees who do not share or hold the religious beliefs of the employer. When an employer discriminates against an employee because he or she does not share the religious beliefs preferred by the employer, the employer has engaged in unlawful religious discrimination.

Types Of Religious Discrimination Claims

In Wallace v. City of Philadelphia, 2010 WL 1730850 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 26, 2010), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania observed that “employees may rely on two different theories to establish a claim of religious discrimination: ‘disparate treatment’ on account of religion; or ‘failure to accommodate’ religious beliefs.” Employees may also claim that an employer retaliated against them for opposing an employment practice they reasonably believed to constitute unlawful religious discrimination under Title VII or the FCRA.

Disparate treatment claims arise when an employer subjects an employee to an adverse employment action because of the employee’s religion. Under a disparate treatment theory, an employee claims that the employer treated him or her differently from other employees based on religion. In most disparate treatment cases, employees establish that an adverse employment action was based on religion by showing they were treated differently or less favorably from employees of a different religion or of no religion at all. This generally involves showing that the employer treated the aggrieved employee more harshly than other employees of a different religion or of no religion at all who engaged in the same or similar conduct.

A failure to accommodate claim involves circumstances where an employer fails to accommodate an employee’s religious belief or practice that conflicts with an employment requirement. Under a failure to accommodate theory, an employee claims that the employer failed to accommodate his or her religious belief or practice and then used his or her failure to comply with the employment requirement as a basis for subjecting the employee to an adverse employment action.

“In a religious accommodation claim,” as observed by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Chalmers v. Tulon Co. of Richmond, 101 F.3d 1012 (4th Cir. 1996), “an employee can establish a claim even though she cannot show that other [ ] employees were treated more favorably or cannot” show that the employer’s articulated reason for the adverse employment action was a pretext for religious discrimination. “This is,” the Chalmers court explained, “because an employer must, to an extent, actively attempt to accommodate an employee’s religious expression or conduct even if, absent the religious motivation, the employee’s conduct would supply a legitimate ground for [the adverse employment action].”

Proving Religious Discrimination

To prove a Title VII religious discrimination claim under a disparate treatment theory, an employee must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. As the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals determined in Sarullo v. U.S. Postal Service, 352 F.3d 789 (3d Cir. 2003), an employee may establish a prima facie case of religious discrimination by showing that he or she: (1) belongs to a protected class, i.e., the employee adheres to a particular religion; (2) was qualified for the position held; (3) was subject to an adverse employment action despite being qualified; and (4) the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances that raise an inference of discrimination on the basis of religion. In a religious discrimination case based on a discriminatory failure to hire, promote, or discharge, an employee may satisfy the fourth element by showing that the candidate selected or the replacement was of a different religion or of no religion at all.

For purposes of Title VII discrimination claims, as the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Bass v. Bd. of County Comm’rs, Orange County, Fla., 256 F.3d 1095 (11th Cir. 2001) explained, an “adverse employment action” are those actions that alter the employee’s “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,” “deprive” the employee of “employment opportunities,” or “adversely affect” the employee’s “status as an employee.” In applying this standard, courts have ruled with compelling consistency that an “adverse employment action” for purposes of a Title VII discrimination claim includes: failure to hire; demotion; failure to promote; transfer resulting in decreased wages; reduction in hours or compensation; loss of benefits; undeserved negative performance evaluations; and termination.

In Abdu-Brisson v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 239 F.3d 456 (2d Cir. 2001), the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals observed that in determining whether an adverse employment action occurred under circumstances which give rise to an inference of discrimination the basis of religion, courts look to factors such as “the employer’s continuing, after discharging the [employee] to seek applicants from persons of the [employee’s] qualifications to fill that position”; or “the employer’s criticism of the [employee’s] performance in [religiously] degrading terms”; or the employer’s discriminatory comments about others who are members of the employee’s religion; or the employer’s “more favorably treatment” of employees of a different religion or of no religion at all; or “the sequence of events leading to” the adverse employment action.

If an employee establishes a prima facie case of religious discrimination, as the Second Circuit explained in Dister v. Continental Group, Inc., 859 F.2d 1108 (2d Cir. 1988), “a presumption arises that the employer unlawfully discriminated against the employee.” Thus, as the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Rose v. Nat’l Cash Register Corp., 703 F.2d 225 (6th Cir. 1983) observed, “to say that an [employee] has established a prima facie case is simply to say that he has produced sufficient evidence to present his case to the jury.”

Once an employee establishes a prima facie case of religious discrimination, the employer must proffer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. If the employer shows that it had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason, then the employee must demonstrate that the employer’s articulated reason for the adverse employment action is a pretext for religious discrimination. The employee may prove pretext by demonstrating that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated the adverse employment action or by showing that the employer’s articulated reason for the adverse employment action is unworthy of belief.

How Religious Discrimination Usually Occurs

Because “smoking gun” evidence of discrimination rarely exists, most employment discrimination cases are proven using the disparate treatment theory. As the U.S. Supreme Court explained in International Bhd. of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324 (1977), “disparate treatment is the most easily understood type of discrimination.” In a disparate treatment case, the employer treats an employee differently or less favorably than other employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, or age. Thus, as the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Leblanc v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 6 F.3d 836 (1st Cir. 1993) observed, “[a] disparate treatment cause of action accrues when an employer treats an employee less favorably than others because of her race, color, religion, sex, [pregnancy], national origin, [disability], or age.”

In the context of religious discrimination, disparate treatment occurs when an employer treats the employee claiming religious discrimination differently or less favorably from an employee of a different religion or of no religion at all. For example, the employer fires an employee who is Mormon for misconduct, but the employer does not fire employees of a different religion or of no religion at all who were involved in or accused of the same misconduct. Likewise, the employer terminates an employee who is Jewish for engaging in unprofessional behavior, but the employer does not fire employees of a different religion or of no religion at all who engaged in the same or similar behavior. Similarly, the employer discharges an employee who is Muslim because of work performance problems, but the employer does not discharge employees of a different religion or of no religion at all who have similar or worse work performance problems. In each of these examples, the key feature is that the employer is meting out more lenient treatment for employees of a different religion or of no religion at all.

Showing that an employer treated an employee of a particular religion differently or less favorably from an employee of a different religion or of no religion at all is a form of circumstantial evidence used to prove religious discrimination. Indeed, as explained by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U.S. 609 (1993), “[p]roof of discriminatory motive [in employment discrimination cases] is critical, although it can in some situations be inferred from the mere fact of differences in treatment.” When the treatment of the employee claiming religious discrimination differs from that accorded to employees of a different religion or of no religion at all, it can be inferred that the aggrieved employee was treated differently because of his or her religion. In most cases, as the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in Bogren v. Minnesota, 236 F.3d 399 (8th Cir. 2000) pointed out, “instances of disparate treatment may be enough to present a jury question” as to whether the employer discriminated against an employee on the basis of religion.

The decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in Vetter v. Farmland Industries, 884 F.Supp. 1287 (N.D. Iowa 1995) is illustrative of a religious-based disparate treatment claim. In that case, an employee claimed that he was fired because of his religion in violation of Title VII. The employee was employed as a Livestock Production Specialist (LPS) and responsible for a sales territory surrounding Webster City, Iowa. The employee’s disparate treatment claim was founded on an allegation that after he informed his supervisor that he is Jewish and wanted to live in Ames, Iowa because it had an active Jewish community, the employer for the first time imposed a requirement that he live within the Webster City sales territory and ultimately fired him for his refusal to live within that sales territory.

In support of his disparate treatment claim, the employee pointed to evidence showing that some LPS’s had been given permission to live outside of their sales territory or had been given several months to move into their sales territory, whereas he was the only LPS fired for not moving into his sales territory, and then only one month after he was hired. The employee argued that the employer’s more lenient treatment of LPS’s who were not required to live within their sales territory, but for reasons other than religion, was evidence that the was treated less favorably because of his religion and that the employer’s reason for discharging him was a pretext to mask religious discrimination.

In denying the employer’s motion for dismissal of the employee’s religious discrimination claim, the court found that the employee had presented evidence establishing that he was treated differently “from other LPS’s who did not live within their sales territories, but for reasons other than religion, were allowed to stay there or given significantly longer than [the employee] to move within the territory.” The differences in treatment, the court reasoned, were sufficient to establish a case of disparate treatment and raise an inference of religious-based discrimination. Thus, the court ruled that it was the the jury to decide whether the employer required the employee to live within his sales territory for “legitimate business reasons, or simply to discriminate against [the employee] because of his desire to live in Ames for religious reasons.”

Circumstances Showing Religious Discrimination

As discussed more fully in our section pertaining to discrimination, because an employer will rarely admit to a discriminatory motive when subjecting an employee to an adverse employment action, almost all employment discrimination cases must be proven through circumstantial evidence. In our section pertaining to discrimination, we identify some of the types of circumstantial evidence that can be used to prove that an employee’s race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, or age may have played a role in the challenged employment decision.

The circumstantial evidence identified in our section pertaining to discrimination applies with equal force in the context of religious discrimination. However, some types of circumstantial evidence arise more frequently or have special status in the context of religious discrimination. In the religious discrimination context, the types of circumstantial evidence that can also be used to prove the challenged employment decision was motivated by the employee’s religion include:

  • * In a termination case, the employer replaces the employee claiming religious discrimination with a person of a different religion. In a failure to hire or failure to promote case, the candidate selected is of a different religion than the aggrieved individual.
  • * Comments by supervisors or managers reflecting a desire to satisfy the religious preferences of third persons, including employees, customers, or clients.
  • * Remarks by supervisors or managers reflecting religious stereotypes
  • * Comments by supervisors or managers reflecting a preference for a particular religion, including a particular religious belief or practice.
  • * Remarks by supervisors or managers showing that employees were expected or required to adhere to a particular religion, including a particular religious belief or practice.
  • * Evidence of religious-based harassment towards the employee claiming religious discrimination or towards other employees who are members of the same religion as the employee claiming religious discrimination.
  • * The employer’s failure to stop religious-based harassing behavior towards the employee claiming religious discrimination despite a supervisor’s or manager’s knowledge of the harassment.
  • * Derogatory religious-based remarks, insults, or jokes by co-workers, supervisors, or managers towards the employee claiming religious discrimination or towards other employees who are members of the same religion as the employee claiming religious discrimination.
  • * The employer’s failure to stop religious-based remarks, insults, or jokes in the workplace despite the knowledge of a supervisor or manager that such conduct was occurring. Such evidence establishes that the employer tolerated and condoned a religious-based discriminatory atmosphere.
  • * Evidence that the employer has discriminated against other employees on the basis of religion.
  • * The employer fails or refuses to accommodate the religious beliefs or practices of the employee claiming religious discrimination or other employees seeking an accommodation for their religious needs.

The types of circumstantial evidence reflecting that an employee has been discriminated against on the basis of religion may take a variety of forms. There is no single or mechanical method for proving that an employee was subjected to an adverse employment action based on religion. Moreover, it is not necessary that each piece of circumstantial evidence, standing alone, prove an employee was subjected to an adverse employment action based on religion. Rather, all of the evidence is to be considered cumulatively in determining whether an employment decision was motivated by impermissible religious discrimination. As explained by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Andrews v. City of Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469 (3d Cir. 1990), “a play cannot be understood on the basis of some of its scenes but only on its entire performance, and similarly, a discrimination analysis must concentrate not on individual incidents, but on the overall scenario.”

Fired Because Of Religion

In many religious discrimination cases under Title VII, employees claim that they were fired because of their religion. In order to prove a discriminatory discharge claim, as the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Spencer v. City Univ. of N.Y., 932 F.Supp. 540 (S.D. N.Y. 1996) pointed out, employees are “not required to prove that religion was the sole or exclusive motivation” for the termination. Instead, the Spencer court observed, employees “need only show that religion was a motivating factor” for the termination. The decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Tincher v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 118 F.3d 1125 (7th Cir. 1997) is illustrative of a religiously-based discriminatory discharge claim.

In that case, an employee, who was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, claimed that she was fired because of her religion in violation of Title VII. The employee asked the store manager to transfer her to the stocking crew because that job would not include Friday night or Saturday work and thus would not interfere with her religious practices as a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. In response, the store manager rolled his eyes and replied, “Oh yeah, I know all about [the Seventh Day Adventists].” After her requested transfer, the store manager began scheduling the employee to work on Friday nights and Saturdays. Eventually, the store manager asked the employee to take a data entry job. When the employee inquired as to whether the position would require her to work on Friday nights and Saturdays, the store manager said she would have to work those days. When the employee voiced her objection because of her religious beliefs, the store manager replied, “Well, what do you think I ought to do, fire you?” Shortly after this exchange, the employee was fired for allegedly violating company policy, which she denied. The store manager was involved in making the termination decision.

In upholding the jury’s verdict that the employee was fired based on religion in violation of Title VII, the Seventh Circuit focused on the “motivations” of the store manager and found evidence of the store manager’s “disparaging conduct” regarding the employee’s religious practices. This evidence included the store manager rolling his eyes while commenting “Oh yeah, I know all about [the Seventh Day Adventists]” after the employee initially asked for a religious accommodation, his occasional scheduling the employee to work on Friday nights and Saturdays despite her request for a religious accommodation, and his response of “Well, what do you think I ought to do, fire you?” after the employee objected to taking a data entry job so she would not have to work Friday nights and Saturdays. This evidence regarding the store manager’s animus towards the employee’s religion, the Seventh Circuit concluded, was sufficient for the jury to find that the employee was fired because of her religion.

Reverse Religious Discrimination

In the context of religious discrimination, “reverse discrimination” refers to religious discrimination that is based on an employer’s preference for a particular religion. In a reverse religious discrimination case, as observed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Noyes v. Kelly Servs., 488 F.3d 1163 (9th Cir. 2007), “it is the religious beliefs of the employer, and the fact that the employee does not share them, that constitutes the basis of the religious discrimination claim.” Thus, the critical factor in a reverse religious discrimination case is that the employee does not hold the religious beliefs of the employer and the employer uses the employee’s non-adherence to the employer’s religious beliefs as a basis for an adverse employment action against the employee.

To prove a Title VII reverse religious discrimination claim, an employee must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. As determined by the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Ramirez v. Kingman Hosp. Inc., 374 F.Supp. 832 (D. Ariz. 2019), to make a prima facie showing of discrimination based on a failure to adhere to an employer’s religious beliefs, an employee must establish that: (1) he or she “was subjected to an adverse employment action”; (2) “at the time the employment action was taken,” his or her “job performance was satisfactory”; and (3) “some additional evidence to support the inference that the employment action was taken because of a discriminatory motive based on the employee’s failure to hold or follow his [or her] employer’s religious beliefs.”

The decision by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Fisher v. Forestwood Co., Inc., 525 F.3d 972 (10th Cir. 2008) is illustrative of a reverse religious discrimination claim. In that case, a job candidate claimed that his former employer refused to rehire him because he did not share the religious beliefs of his former employer. The job candidate had previously worked for the employer as a salesperson. During his employment tenure, the job candidate was a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). The employer’s management was actively involved with the FLDS. During the previous decade, the employer refused to hire or interview anyone who was not a member of the FLDS church. About six months before he resigned his employment, the job candidate left the FLDS church.

Shortly after resigning his employment, the job candidate sought to be rehired and spoke with the president of the company. During their discussion, the president told the job candidate that the company would only rehire him if he returned to the FLDS church. The job candidate claimed that he ultimately was not rehired because he refused to rejoin the FLSD church. In reversing the trial court’s dismissal of the the job candidate’s failure to hire claim, the Tenth Circuit found that the president’s remark that the job candidate would be rehired only if he returned to the FLDS church established that the job candidate’s “non-membership in the FLDS church played a motivating factor in [the employer’s] decision not to rehire [him].” Because the job candidate had come forward with evidence showing that he was not rehired because of his non-adherence to the employer’s religious beliefs, the Tenth Circuit determined that the job candidate was entitled to bring his reverse religious discrimination claim before a jury for resolution.

Religious Discrimination & Lack Of Religion

Title VII’s protection of religious freedom in the workplace also includes the right of employees not to hold religious beliefs. Title VII defines “religion” to include “all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.” As observed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in EEOC v. United Health Programs of Am., Inc., 213 F.Supp.3d 377 (E.D. N.Y. 2016), courts have interpreted Title VII’s definition of religion “to protect against the requirements of religious conformity and as such protects those who refuse to hold, as well as those who hold, specific religious beliefs.” Thus, employees who refuse to hold religious beliefs are protected against religious discrimination under Title VII’s broad definition of “religion.”

The decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Mathis v. Christian Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., 2016 WL 304766 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 26, 2016) demonstrates that Title VII religious discrimination claims do not necessarily have to stem from an employee’s religious beliefs, but can also be based on an employee’s objection to religion in the workplace. In that case, an employee who was an atheist objected to wearing a name-tag badge that bore a religious message. Consequently, he covered the religious message with tape because he did not agree with it and felt employees should not “have to wear a religious statement because of somebody else’s religion.” When the owner of the company observed that the employee had covered the message with tape, he told the employee that he was “done” at the company if he refused to remove the tape. According to the employee, the owner took the badge from him before he could decide whether to remove the tape. The employee’s employment was then terminated.

The court found that the employee’s evidence was sufficient to establish that he was fired based on religion. In support of its conclusion, the court pointed to the owner’s remark to the employee that “you’re done” if the employee did not remove the tape and allow the religious message to be displayed. The employee’s only choice under such circumstances, the court explained, was to wear the badge without the tape if he wanted to continue working for the company. However, the court pointed out, the employee’s “objection to wearing the badge without the tape was based on his religious beliefs as an atheist.” Because the owner testified that he “terminated” the employee “for not wearing the badge the way it should be,” the owner’s testimony showed that the employee was fired because of his religious beliefs as an atheist. Based on this evidence, the court concluded, a reasonable jury could find that the employee was fired based on religion in violation of Title VII.

Resignation Due To Religious Discrimination

In some Title VII religious discrimination cases, employers force employees to make a choice between their religious beliefs and their job. When an employer forces an employee to make such a Hobson’s choice, courts have determined that an employee who involuntarily resigns under such circumstances has been constructively discharged.

A constructive discharge occurs when the employer, instead of expressly terminating the employee, creates an intolerable work atmosphere that forces the employee to quit involuntarily. In the constructive discharge context, as noted by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Hibbard v. Penn-Trafford Sch. Dist., 2014 WL 640253 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 19, 2014), “[t]he resignation is treated as if it were an outright dismissal by the employer, which can serve as the basis for a discrimination claim.” Thus, when an employer compels an employee to quit because of intolerable working conditions, it is just like the employer fired the employee. To establish a constructive discharge claim, as the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals explained in Goss v. Exxon Office Systems Co., 747 F.2d 885 (3d Cir. 1984), an employee must show that “the employer knowingly permitted conditions of discrimination in employment so intolerable that a reasonable person subject to them would resign.”

The decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Young v. Southwestern Savings & Loan Ass’n, 509 F.2d 140 (5th Cir. 1975) is illustrative of circumstances where an employee was constructively discharged as a result of being forced to choose between her religious beliefs and her job. In that case, an employee claimed that she was constructively discharged in violation of Title VII when she refused to attend mandatory monthly meetings that included a religious discussion and prayer. When she voiced her objection to management, the employee was told that the meetings were mandatory and she was required to attend the entire meeting, but that she could “close her ears” for the religious portions. Instead of attending the prayer meetings, the employee quit.

The Fifth Circuit ruled that the employee’s resignation amounted to a constructive discharge in violation of Title VII. In support of its conclusion, the appellate court reasoned that by requiring the employee to attend monthly meetings that contained religious proselytizing concerning a set of religious beliefs that she did not hold, the employer created discriminatory working conditions that were intolerable to the employee. “This is precisely the situation in which the doctrine of constructive discharge applies,” the Fifth Circuit reasoned, “a case in which an employee involuntarily resigns in order to escape intolerable and illegal employment requirements.”

Discriminatory Religious Remarks

Although not required to prove a religious discrimination case because such evidence is almost never available, discriminatory remarks by employees involved in making the contested employment decision are the most powerful evidence in proving that an employment decision was motivated by unlawful religious discrimination. In the vast majority of religious discrimination cases, a discriminatory comment by an employee involved in making the contested employment decision is sufficient, by itself, to prove that an employment decision was based on unlawful religious discrimination and allow a jury to return a verdict for the aggrieved employee.

For purposes of illustration, set forth below are examples of discriminatory remarks taken from actual religious discrimination cases made by employees involved in making the contested employment decision. The employee claiming religious discrimination in these cases used the discriminatory remarks in attempting to establish that the contested employment decision was unlawfully based on his or her religion

  • * Decision-maker told employee while terminating her, “You’re fired, too. You’re too religious.”
  • * Supervisor who made challenged employment decision mocked the diet and prayer rituals of Muslim employee.
  • * Manager who ultimately fired employee told her that if she “did not like religion in the workplace, she could quit.”
  • * Supervisor who was involved in termination decision “hounded” employee, who began life as a Muslim but who regularly attended Lutheran services for previous twenty years, “about his abandonment of Islam,” including instructing the employee to “follow the teachings of the Koran” and warning him of the “divine punishments that awaited those who turned their back on Islam.”
  • * Decision-maker told terminated employee that he was “not the type of Christian that he wanted in a leadership position in his company.”
  • * When asked by the employee the basis for the termination decision, supervisor who made the decision told employee, “I made it because I am a Christian.”
  • * Manager who played a role in discharge decision told employee that he was “acting like a Muslim extremist.”
  • * Decision-maker told terminated employee, “I’m firing you because you’re not a Christian.”
  • * Employee involved in decision-making process called employee, who was a practicing Muslim, “Taliban” and stated “this is America, this is not the Islamic country where you came from.”
  • * Decision-maker told employee when firing her that she was not “the right kind of Christian.”
  • * Manager told fired employee, “sometimes you have to choose between your religion and your job.”

Protection From Retaliation

Title VII and the FCRA contain anti-retaliation provisions which protect employees from retaliation for opposing an employer’s discriminatory employment practices. Under Title VII and the FCRA, employees are protected from retaliation when they complain about perceived religious discrimination in the workplace. To be protected from retaliation under Title VII and the FCRA, employees do not have to prove that they were unlawfully discriminated against based on religion. Instead, employees only have to show that they had a good faith, reasonable belief that the employer engaged in unlawful religious discrimination. In other words, employees are protected from retaliation even if they are wrong about whether the employer’s conduct constituted an actual violation of Title VII or the FCRA.

The decision by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in EEOC v. Go-Daddy Software, Inc., 581 F.3d 951 (9th Cir. 2009) illustrates that employees are protected from retaliation when they complain about perceived religious discrimination in the workplace. In that case, an employee, who is Muslim, claimed that he was fired in retaliation for complaining about discriminatory comments by his supervisor regarding his religion, including stating that “Muslims need to die.” The employee complained to a human resources representative “two or three times” about the comments that had been made about his religion. Ultimately, the employer fired the employee “only days” after he lodged his final religious discrimination complaint.

In affirming the jury’s verdict for the employee on his retaliation claim, the Ninth Circuit found that the employee was protected from retaliation by Title VII when he complained to his supervisor “about what he claimed to perceive as [religious] discrimination.” The appellate court also determined that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that the employee was fired in retaliation for complaining about perceived religious discrimination. In support of its conclusion, the Ninth Circuit reasoned that because the employee was fired “only days” after he lodged his last religious discrimination complaint, the jury could reasonably infer that the employee’s termination was “in response” to his complaint of religious discrimination.

Religious Discrimination In Employment Law Blog

As part of our commitment in assisting and protecting employees against discriminatory employment practices, our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys offer more information about religious discrimination in our employment law blog.

Gainesville Lawyers For Employment Discrimination

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys have been representing Florida employees for more than twenty years. If you have been discriminated against based on religion or have questions about the religious freedoms of employees under the federal employment laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Gainesville, Florida employment discrimination lawyers. You will received personalized and individual attention from our employment discrimination attorneys. Our employees’ rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis and if we fail to recover on your behalf, we do not get paid. Our Gainesville, Florida employment discrimination lawyers are ready to take your case and fight for your employee rights.

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