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When it comes to religion in the workplace, what rights do employees have?

The United States has long been regarded as a tolerant haven for those individuals seeking freedom from religious persecution and discrimination. In fact, the founding U.S. fathers believed so strongly in the importance of religious freedom that they included provisions related to the "free exercise of religion" in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Despite Constitutional protections, there have been many cases in which individuals in the U.S. have faced religious discrimination and harassment. In an effort to prevent these types of practices in the workplace, additional religious freedom protections are afforded to employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Today, it's illegal for an employer to take an employee's, or prospective employee’s, religion into consideration with regard to hiring, recruiting, compensation, promotion, layoffs and firings. Additionally, many employees who are religious may have certain customs, rituals and beliefs for which employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations.

Reasonable religious accommodations in the workplace may include allowing employees time to pray, to wear specific clothing and a general acceptance of an employee's refusal to participate in certain activities or rituals that are against or conflict with his or her religious beliefs. Legally, these types of accommodations must be provided unless doing so would cause an employer to suffer "an undue hardship."

Los Angeles area residents, who believe that an employer is in violation of Title VII, may choose to discuss their situation with an attorney. Employment lawsuits involving allegations of religious discrimination or harassment can be difficult to prove. An attorney who has successfully handled similar cases can answer questions, provide advice and assist in taking legal action against employers who fail to provide employees with the religious freedoms and accommodations to which they are legally entitled.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Religious Discrimination at Work," April 14, 2015

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