New York EEOC Attorneys Guide Victims of Religious Discrimination

New York EEOC Attorneys Guide Victims of Religious Discrimination

The attorneys at Leeds Brown represent clients throughout New York and can work with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to make sure that when religious discrimination occurs, victims can enforce their rights.

Employees have the right to work in an environment where there they receive equal, non-discriminatory treatment. In 1964, Congress enacted The Civil Rights Act of 1964, one part of which, made it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees because of numerous characteristics. Under Title VII, employers may not discriminate in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment because of race, sex, national origin, color, and religion. The EEOC is the federal agency that oversees the enforcement of Title VII.

The EEOC states that, for the purpose of applying Title VII, religion has a broad meaning. “It includes traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It also includes religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, or only held by a small number of people.”

If you have been the victim of discrimination at work because of your religion, you may want to speak with the experienced attorneys at Leeds Brown. Our New York lawyers can help determine the best course of action that can lead you to your goal. If your employer has refused to grant a workplace accommodation for your religious needs, you have been wrongfully terminated or have been harassed by your co-workers, Leeds Brown has the knowledge and skill to achieve a successful outcome. You may be entitled to receive an award for monetary damages, secure an accommodation and/or receive reinstatement. Our job is to help you get the results you want by zealously fighting for your rights.

The EEOC and Religious Discrimination in the New York Workplace

The Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from harassing and making employment decisions based on religious beliefs. According to the EEOC, Title VII also requires “employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless to do so would pose an undue hardship to the employer. A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his religion. Flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and lateral transfers are examples of accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs”.

When an employer violates any of the provisions of Title VII, before filing a lawsuit, the employee must file a charge with the EEOC. The EEOC chooses to investigate (or not) and must provide victims with a “notice of right to sue.” After the EEOC issues the notice, the victim has a small window during which to file a lawsuit.

In 2014 the EEOC received roughly 3,500 charges alleging religious discrimination. The charges primarily alleged discrimination in one these areas:

  • Hiring, firing, terms and conditions of employment
  • Harassment
  • Reasonable accommodation

If you think you have been the victim of religious workplace discrimination in NY contact EEOC attorneys to protect your rights and file a charge against your employer.

Religious Discrimination in the Workplace: Examples and Issues

Religious discrimination in the workplace is not always obvious. Below are examples of situations that may be discriminatory and illustrate some issues that lawyers at Leeds Brown and the EEOC might consider when processing a claim.


A Muslim woman applies for a job in a café. During her phone interview, the manager likes her so much that he offers her the job. When she shows up on the first day, the manager is startled by the fact that she wears a hijab on her head and sends her home, claiming to have found someone more suitable for the position.

*The EEOC states that in the situation above, it is possible that the employer sent the woman home because of her hijab, which she wears because of her religious beliefs. If so, the employer made an unlawful discriminatory decision not to hire her. The woman would have to find a way to prove that her religious practice was the motivation behind his decision.

The employer here may claim that it made the decision out of concern that his customers would react negatively to the hijab and the woman’s religion. The EEOC has made it clear that customer preference is never a justification for illegal discrimination. Employers often try to use this “justification” when making work assignment decisions that are ultimately discriminatory as well.


A Muslim American man has been working in his office for many years. Suddenly his co-workers start calling him a “terrorist,” asking him if he knows people in ISIS and if he could teach them how to make bombs. He is afraid to go to work and despite repeated complaints, his employer has not tried to stop the harassment.

*Like sex harassment and racial harassment, harassment based on religious beliefs is discrimination under Title VII. In this scenario, the man is being harassed based on his co-workers’ perceptions of his religion, which is unlawful discriminatory behavior.

The employer has an obligation to try and prevent harassment and can be liable for the behavior of the offending employees.

Religious Accommodation:

An observant Jewish male employee wears a yarmulke or head covering as required by his religion. The company he works for has a dress code that forbids employees from wearing hats, head scarves, and all other head coverings. His employer refuses to make an exception to the policy and requires him to remove his skullcap, or he will face termination.

*The employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee to be able to follow his or her religious beliefs. A reasonable accommodation is an accommodation that does not impose undue hardship or place more than a minimal burden on the business. According to the EEOC, undue hardship might involve ” violating a seniority system; causing a lack of necessary staffing; jeopardizing security or health; or costing the employer more than a minimal amount.”

The EEOC or court would have to determine if allowing the man to wear his skullcap would impose an undue hardship on the business, which seems unlikely.

In addition to exceptions to company grooming and dress policies, common religious accommodations include requesting schedule changes to attend religious services on holidays, not working on Sabbath, being excused from religious prayers at office meetings, being excused from certain job tasks because they violate your religious beliefs.

Contact Us

The dedicated lawyers at Leeds Brown can help you gather evidence and file your discrimination charge with the EEOC. We can help negotiate a monetary settlement with your employer, get you the accommodation you need, and represent your interests in court if that is what it takes to secure the outcome you want.

For decades, Leeds Brown has been successfully representing clients in NY who are victims of harassment and unlawful employment discrimination. We have an outstanding reputation for providing personal, professional service and having a team of dedicated and compassionate advocates.

New York EEOC attorneys at Leeds Brown are available around the clock, every day, to take calls and meet with clients who need us to be flexible and sensitive to the demands of everyday life, and work.

Call our office 24/7 at 1-800-585-4658 today to find out if you have a discrimination claim against your employer.



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