Articles Posted in Religious Discrimination

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yarmulkeAccording to a recent announcement from the Attorney General’s Office, an auto parts store employee received a $10,000 payment and the Attorney General received a promise of internal changes at the business in the wake of an employee’s complaint that the employer cut his hours after he asked not to be scheduled to work during Jewish holidays or on the Sabbath. The case highlights the strong protections New Jersey law creates for employees wishing to observe sincerely held religious practices, as well as the consequences for employers who fail to make a good-faith attempt to interact with a religious employee about his need and reasonably accommodate those religious needs. If you’ve suffered from discrimination or harassment at work because of your faithful observance of your religion, you should reach out right away to an experienced New Jersey religious discrimination attorney.

The employee in the auto parts store case, Ron, worked at the chain’s Hazlet location. Ron generally had been working three or four shifts a week, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Then, one day, Ron asked not to be scheduled for shifts that included Saturday hours or Friday hours after sunset. The employee made this request because he was Jewish and faithfully observed the Sabbath. He also asked to be off on certain Jewish holidays. After Ron made the request, he allegedly received a very different schedule, with the store scheduling him to work only one shift per week.

Believing that the employer cut his hours because he made the religious accommodation request, Ron filed a complaint with the state’s Division of Civil Rights. That agency investigated and concluded that the employer did not meet its legal obligation to accommodate Ron’s religious practice. Under changes to the Law Against Discrimination that took effect back in 2008, an employer has a statutory obligation to accommodate its employees’ “sincerely held religious observance or practice.”

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prayingAnti-discrimination laws are clear that an employer cannot discriminate against employees based upon their religion. This, however, leads to another question:  what does or does not count as a religion under federal law? One recent case involving a hospital worker offers some perspective on this issue. Although the worker lost his discrimination case, the court’s opinion makes it clear that the range of beliefs that qualify as a religion is broader than one might assume. For advice about this and other areas of employment discrimination law, talk to a knowledgeable New Jersey religious discrimination attorney.

The hospital worker, Paul, had been an employee of a Catholic hospital in southwest Philadelphia since 1994. In 2012, the hospital required its employees to receive a flu vaccination or else submit a form indicating that the employee was medically exempt or exempt based upon religious beliefs.

Paul did not belong to any organized religion. He held strong personal convictions when it came to receiving vaccines, but they were not connected to any religion. In the first two years, Paul submitted the religious exemption form with a lengthy piece of prose explaining his beliefs. Each time, the hospital granted him an exemption. In 2014, the worker submitted the same paperwork and essay. This time, the employer denied the exemption. It required that Paul provide a letter from a clergyperson related to his beliefs, which he could not do. On Dec. 31, 2014, the hospital terminated the worker for not complying with the flu vaccination rule.

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