Anyone who suspects they were fired because of their religion.
What Protections Do I Have?
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employees are protected against discrimination in employment. Under the Act, you can’t be fired because of your religion and your employer is required to make reasonable accommodations for your faith as long as it doesn’t cause any particular hardship for the company.
Some of these accommodations can include:
Making exceptions for grooming (hairstyles, beards, etc.) and dress (e.g., not requiring a woman who must wear a burka to wear a company uniform)
Reassigning an employee to another position within the company
Swapping shifts and having flexible scheduling so employees can attend and observe religious events and holidays
How Can I Tell If I Was Fired for My Religion?
Most lawsuits alleging religious-based wrongful termination have common themes:
Firing People for Their Hair or Dress
In many wrongful termination lawsuits, workers allege that they were fired because their employer failed to accommodate requests to keep a certain style of hair or dress. Cases have been filed on behalf of workers who were terminated because they refused to cut their beards or Rastafarian dreadlocks, as well as people who refused to remove religious garb such as Jewish yarmulkes or Muslim burkas.
Firing People Who Need Leave for Religious Events
Employees have also been wrongfully terminated after their employer failed to accommodate leave requests that would have allowed them to observe religious holidays. For instance, in one case, a car salesman asked his employer to have off from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday because of his religious beliefs. The employee was eventually fired and, after reporting his claim to the EEOC, settled his case for $158,000.
Forcing Employees to Quit
In other cases, working conditions became so unbearable that employees were forced to quit. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a suit on behalf of a man who was forced to resign his position because of his religion (Islam). According to the suit, the man was harassed with such statements as “I don’t know why we don’t just kill all them towelheads” – and the employer did nothing to stop it.
What If My Employer Forced Me to Participate in His/Her Religion?
You may also have a case for religious discrimination if you were fired for refusing to participate in your employer’s religion. For instance, a medical and chiropractic office was forced to pay $170,000 to workers who were required to spend half of their day in scientology-based activities, including screaming at ashtrays and staring at each for hours on end, according to the EEOC’s lawsuit.
Have These Cases Been Successful?
Yes. Here are some of the results recovered over the past several years:
$125,000 for two nursing assistants who were fired after their employer failed to accommodate their request to have off on Saturdays because of their religion (Seventh-Day Adventists)
$70,000 for a UPS worker who was terminated and placed on a “do not hire” list after failing to report to work when he had requested a schedule change that would have allowed him to observe an annual religious holiday
$65,000 for an employee who was fired for refusing to take off her khimar, which covered her ears, neck and hair
$50,000 for a man who worked at McDonald’s and was forced to quit because the company didn’t allow him to grow the beard he kept for religious reasons
$40,000 for a worker at KFC who was fired after she refused to wear pants as this was not permitted under her religion