Articles Posted in Religious Discrimination

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star-of-davidThe New Jersey Herald reported on a recent federal case from Louisiana declared that discrimination based upon an employment candidate’s Jewish heritage could constitute racial discrimination in violation of federal law. The employee’s attorney declared the ruling to be “precedent-setting.” While this recent case does not have precedential impact in New Jersey, it is a useful opportunity to analyze the rights and protections available to New Jersey employees who find themselves in this type of situation. If you have been the victim of discrimination because of your heritage or someone’s perception about your heritage, you may have a claim in New Jersey. Talk an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney to find out more about your situation.

In the recent federal case, an alumnus of a Baptist college in Louisiana applied for a coaching position. The college president allegedly refused to hire the man because of his “Jewish blood.” (The candidate’s mother was Jewish.) The case was not one of religious discrimination, as the candidate was not a practitioner of the Jewish religion. The candidate was born into a Jewish family but converted to Christianity during his time at the school and on the football team, according to the Herald.

So, what might happen to a similar employment candidate in New Jersey? The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination bans employment discrimination based upon “race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender, gender identity, disability, nationality, military status, or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait.” Within that heading of creed is protection against discrimination based upon your religious belief or practices.

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yarmulkeWhile everyone hopes that we are progressing toward a more enlightened society in which instances of discrimination and harassment in the workplace become fewer and fewer, the unfortunate reality is that they still happen. Whether your work environment is made into a hostile one because you’re African-American, female, Jewish, LGBT, Latino or for some other reason, you have recourse. To learn more about your options under the law, talk to a New Jersey employment attorney experienced in discrimination and harassment issues.

The allegations made by one township employee alleged conduct that was truly disgusting. According to a nj1015.com report, an employee experienced a near-constant barrage of anti-Semitic comments during his more than 15-year tenure with the township. These comments, which the employee endured on an almost daily basis, ranged from engaging in typical Jewish stereotyping (calling him “my big Jewish buddy,” “cheap Jeward,” and “Mr. Money Bags,” along with asking him why he “killed Jesus”) to epithets like “f***ing Jew,” “golem,” and “Jewbacca” (based the employee’s appreciation of the Star Wars movies). The comments allegedly went as far as telling him he should have numbers tattooed on his arm, a reference to the identification tattoos the Nazis gave Jews who were inprisoned in the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

In a case like this one, the employee’s claim arises from the existence of harassment so severe or pervasive as to make the workplace a “hostile work environment.” In this type of lawsuit, the harassment can be either severe or pervasive to constitute a valid claim; it does not have to be both. The harasser does not have to have authority over the person harmed. The harasser can be a supervisor, a co-worker or, in certain situations, even a non-employee of the employer.

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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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