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Religious Discrimination Attorney in Akron, Ohio

Both state and federal statutes protect employees from discrimination based on a variety of characteristics. The landmark U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 was actually passed five years after Ohio’s Civil Rights Act of 1959. Both statutes offer protections from discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, and national origin. In the decades since, the number of protected categories has actually grown.

Whereas the Ohio code originally covered places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, and theaters, to end segregation, it was expanded over the years to cover all employers in the state with four or more employees. In contrast Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act covers all public and private employers from the beginning but set the threshold at 15 or more employees.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of religious discrimination in Akron, Ohio, contact the Law Offices of F. Benjamin Riek III. Employment law Attorney F. Benjamin Riek III has been protecting the rights of hardworking Ohioans for more than four decades. In addition to the Akron area, his practice also encompasses Hudson, Canton, Cleveland, and Lorain, Ohio.

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What Is Religious Discrimination?

Religious discrimination occurs when an employee, or prospective employee, is treated better or worse because of their religious belief. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act renders it unlawful for an employer "to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment," because of the individual's religion. 

There are some exemptions. For example, a religious organization aimed at helping believers in that faith can limit employment only to members of that religion, as can educational institutions grounded in one religion.

Leaving aside these few exceptions, religious discrimination can occur during the hiring process, during employment, during requests for reasonable accommodations, and even when demoting, firing, or laying off individuals. Some examples of discrimination based on religion include:

  • Refusing to hire or interview a job application because of a person's religion.

  • Requiring the applicant to endorse or practice a certain religion before being hired (see exceptions above).

  • Advertising for a job and limiting applicants to those of a certain faith (again, see exceptions above).

  • Rejecting employment applications based on the person’s name, such as “Mohammad."

  • Demoting, firing, or other limiting an employee’s job opportunities because they request a reasonable accommodation for their religion, such as a day or part of a day off to attend a religious ceremony.

  • A company’s dress code prohibits employees from wearing headscarves or other religious apparel.

  • An employee is penalized or disciplined for not participating in company activities that violate their religious beliefs.

What Is a Reasonable Accommodation?

When it comes to religion, a reasonable accommodation at work can embrace, as briefly mentioned above, time off for a religious holiday or ceremony associated with the tenets of an employee’s faith. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) defines religious accommodation as “any adjustment to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice their religious beliefs."

This applies not only to schedule changes or leave for religious observances but also to such things as dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons. For instance, if the employee’s company has a “no hats” policy, an employee may request an accommodation, or exemption to the rule, to wear a religious head covering such as a yarmulke or hajib.

Generally speaking, the Civil Rights Act requires the employer to grant the accommodation unless it presents an undue hardship to the company. If an employee’s request for a day off for a religious observance might leave the company understaffed or require them to hire outside labor, the employer might argue that it poses an undue hardship.

Filing a Claim for Discrimination

If you feel you’ve been discriminated against on religious or other grounds at work, you have your choice of filing a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). Remember Title VII of the U.S. code covers only employers with 15 or more employees, while the Ohio Civil Rights Act Covers employers with as few as four employees.

The time limit to file a claim with the EEOC is 180 days from the act of discrimination, but this statute of limitations can be extended to 300 days if the charge of discrimination is also covered by state or local ordinance. In Ohio, the statute is much longer, at two years, but this time frame was reduced from six years by the 2021 Employment Law Uniformity Act (ELUA).

The EEOC has always required that you exhaust your administrative claim procedures before filing a lawsuit. Ohio previously allowed lawsuits without exhausting administrative measures with the OCRC, but EULA aligned everything with the EEOC’s stance. So now you must wait for the agency to signal a lawsuit can be filed if they don’t file one themselves.

Religious Discrimination Attorney Serving Akron, Ohio

The Law Offices of F. Benjamin Riek III has helped countless others like you fight for their rights at work and continue to pursue your livelihood. If you or a loved one feel you have been discriminated against at work because of your religion, contact Attorney F. Benjamin Riek III. He proudly serves clients in and around Akron and neighboring communities, including Hudson, Canton, Cleveland, and Lorain, Ohio.