Articles Posted in Religious Discrimination

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A recent survey completed by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and Taft Communications revealed several interesting insights but one undeniably regrettable trend. The survey’s findings suggest that people are reportedly hearing more offensive comments at work. From a legal perspective, an offensive comment may not always be enough to establish a winning Law Against Discrimination case, but it can be an integral ingredient and, sometimes, just a single slur may be all the proof you need to win your case. A knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney can help you analyze the facts of your case and determine what evidence you need to succeed.

The annual “State of Diversity Survey” asked workers how often they heard comments “that could be seen as offensive to racial and ethnic minorities; women; Muslims; Jews;” and LGBTQ+ people. Specifically, the survey asked workers, “have you overheard things at work that might be considered offensive to certain groups” during the past year?

The number of respondents, in all categories, who reported hearing these offensive comments either “occasionally” or “very often” was at the highest levels since the poll launched, and every category had a marked increase from last year. Workers who heard comments potentially offensive to racial and ethnic minorities rose 12% from last year to 28%. Respondents reported hearing misogynistic comments (up 10% to 24%), homophobic comments (up 11% to 23%), Islamophobic comments (up 13% to 23%) and anti-Semitic comments (up 10% to 20%), all of which were the highest levels ever recorded in the survey, which began in 2016.

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In mid-January, a bill to remove religious reasons as a valid exception to the legal requirement that schoolchildren receive certain vaccinations failed to make it out of the Senate before the legislative session ended. The bill, if it had passed, would have forced all public school students to be vaccinated unless they had a documented medical reason not to be. Although the bill did not reach the Governor’s desk before the end of the session, legislative leaders have vowed to begin work right away on a new bill, nj.com reported.

This particular bill that just failed would have had no impact on New Jersey workers when it comes to vaccinations and valid bases for obtaining an exception to an otherwise mandatory inoculation. If your religion forbids you from receiving medical treatments such as vaccinations, then an employer who forces you either to get inoculated or lose your job may be engaged in impermissible religious discrimination. If you find yourself placed in such a difficult position, be sure to reach out to a knowledgeable religious discrimination attorney to discuss your situation and your options.

In New Jersey, there are various avenues that may allow you to avoid having to undergo a vaccination if your preference is not to have one. One way you can avoid vaccination is if you have a medical condition that makes getting vaccinated problematic for your health. For example, the yellow fever vaccine sometimes contains egg proteins. Medical professionals, such as the Mayo Clinic, generally recommend that people with egg allergies do not get a yellow fever vaccine except under specific situations and under close medical supervision.

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Muslims in this country face many challenges, including at work. One hurdle that Muslims of Middle Eastern origin should not, but too often do, have to face is discrimination because of their religion and/or national origin. Too many face workplace jokes and taunts where they are labeled as close associates of terrorists or terrorists themselves just because of where they originate and what they believe.

If you are someone who has found yourself victimized by employment discrimination due to your religion (whether it’s Islam or some other faith) or due to your national origin, then you may be entitled to sue and to recover compensation under the Law Against Discrimination. To ensure you’re pursuing your case in the most effective way possible, be sure you have representation from an experienced New Jersey employment attorney.

One New Jersey worker who allegedly experienced this kind of discrimination was A.M., a cook who worked at a country club a half-hour west of Newark. A.M. was Egyptian and a Muslim.

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Many of us have been there. You’ve just accepted a new job and now you’re going through the “new hire” procedures. You are probably asked to fill out, review and sign many documents. You may also be required to complete certain computerized or online tasks as you get started. Most people probably think of these things as perfunctory and don’t pay exceptionally close attention to the details. But the details can matter a great deal, especially should you eventually find yourself having suffered discrimination or harassment on the job. If you are in that position of needing to pursue a discrimination or harassment case, be sure you have skilled New Jersey employment counsel on your side.

One specific area where these kinds of details matter relates to the arbitration agreement you may have signed with your new job. Take, as an example, the case of a West Trenton-based flight attendant, A.S. When the flight attendant began her employment with a major New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company, she was required to complete something called a “training module.” That activity went over various employer policies, including the company’s mandatory arbitration agreement, which was laid out across a series of slides on a computer screen. One screen referred the employee to an internet link that provided the full text of the policy. A separate email provided a series of Frequently Asked Questions and answers to them (FAQs.)

One of the slides contained an interactive button that asked employees to “acknowledge” the policy. Even if the employee did not acknowledge the agreement, she would be “deemed” to have consented to it if she continued working for the employer for 60 or more days, another slide explained.

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Many religions have various requirements when it comes to how followers dress and/or groom themselves. Some people wear dreadlocks because they observe the Rastafarian religion, some people wear a burqa because of their Islamic faith, some wear peyos in observance of their orthodox Jewish religion and still others wear beards because they are Sikhs. So, what happens when your employer tells you that, because of some business necessity, you cannot observe that clothing/grooming requirement that is an important part of the practice of your religion? Depending on the specific facts of your religious observance and your workplace, your employer’s rule may constitute illegal religious discrimination, in violation of the Law Against Discrimination. If your employer has told you that you cannot dress or groom yourself in a manner consistent with your religious faith, be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney right away to find out if your employer’s actions are a violation of the law, and what that might mean for you.

To see an example of how this process can play out for an employee, look at a recent case that originated in Union County. M.R. was a man who practiced the Jewish religion. M.R.’s branch of his religion taught that men were prohibited from shaving their heads or their faces. This was not a problem until the summer of 2016, when M.R. became interested in becoming a state corrections officer. The corrections officers’ training program required all trainees to shave their faces and their heads. M.R.s sought a religious accommodation, and attached a statement from an elder in his church explaining the “no shaving” rule.

A week later, M.R. showed up at the training academy. He was told that his request for an accommodation had been denied, and was subsequently dismissed from the training because he was not properly shaven.

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The 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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While 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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According 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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Anti-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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