California Law Prohibits Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

After hearing the many stories from California employees, some are starting to wonder if California’s laws that prohibit religious discrimination in the workplace are enough to get the job done. One example of blatant religious discrimination follows.

A young Muslim woman went through the application process at a beauty supply store. During her interview she did not wear her hijab. After she was hired, she started her first day of work with the traditional hijab, a headscarf covering her hair, in place. She was told by her direct supervisor (in front of her coworkers and customers in the store) to take the hijab off or to go home.

She explained her religious beliefs and that the hijab held significant religious importance to the manager. The hijab is worn as an expression of devotion to God. It’s also a symbol of modesty and privacy. It’s not unique to Islam. After her thorough and careful explanation, she was sent home for not removing the hijab. She is allowed to keep her job, but her hours are cut back and she is asked to work in the back of the store. 

This is just one of many examples of religious discrimination in the workplace. Muslims face a number of difficult situations such as this, most of which are listed in the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) newest report regarding the civil rights of Muslims in California. The California offices of CAIR received 933 complaints in the last year. The Los Angeles branch received 444 complaints (the highest of any of the CAIR California offices).  

A 2012 California law prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace, but in spite of the intention of the law to provide protection, many are still reporting hostile work environments, alleged harassment, retaliation for political/religious beliefs, wrongful termination, etc.

Under California’s Workplace Religious Freedom Act, employees must provide employees with reasonable accommodations to suit religious beliefs and associated observances. The only exception is if doing so would cause “undue hardship.” To discuss the specifics of what constitutes an “undue hardship,” the meaning of “religious observance” and “religious belief” according to California law, etc. contact the employment law experts of southern California at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik. We can assist you in determining what rights you have and how you can protect yourself from hostile work environments