Protection Against Religious Discrimination in New Jersey
New Jersey has specific laws aimed to protect workers from many different forms of employment discrimination. However, employees may not be aware that employment protections extend to religion or creed, and that New Jersey law prohibits religious discrimination in places of public accommodation, housing, and business transactions. This means that an employee can not be treated differently, harassed, or not considered for employment or a particular job because of their religious beliefs.
It is illegal for an employer in New Jersey to engage in discriminatory actions against an employee on the basis of religion. The statutory definition of religious belief is purposefully broad, as to include all potential belief systems and provide all employees with a safe and respectful work environment.
From our offices in Red Bank, NJ, and Marlton, NJ, McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. represents both employees and employers throughout the state in a wide range of employment discrimination matters, including religious discrimination. Our attorneys will discuss your situation with you and provide you with a clear and candid evaluation of any potential claims, as well as all legal options available to you.
New Jersey State Laws Regarding Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
Employees residing in New Jersey are protected against religious discrimination at work under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). Pursuant to this state statute – which, unlike the Civil Rights Act, applies to employers of all sizes – an employer cannot treat employees differently based upon their sincerely-held religious beliefs. For example, an employer may not discriminate against an employee because the worker:
- Belongs to a religious faith.
- Is a non-believer.
- Is associated with someone of a particular religious faith (such as through marriage).
- Is perceived to be part of a religion but is not.
- Has moral or ethical beliefs that are held to the strength of traditional religious views.
- Note that the law does not generally apply to social or political beliefs.
Also, during the job application and interview process, an employer is not allowed to ask the applicant what their religious faith is, whether they are affiliated with a particular place of worship, or what their religious practices and observances are. Employers who are religious organizations or institutions are typically exempt from these rules.
When invoking the NJLAD, an employee may bring a private lawsuit in the Superior Courts of New Jersey or the employee may file a claim with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights within 180 days of the alleged discrimination taking place.
Before deciding to file any employment claim, whether in Superior Court or with the Division on Civil Rights, the employee should discuss the matter with an experienced New Jersey religious discrimination attorney.
What is Considered Religious Discrimination In The Workplace in New Jersey?
Every employee has the right to be considered for a job without their religious beliefs factoring into the hiring decision. It is also illegal for an employer to terminate an employee, treat them differently in their terms of employment, or reduce someone’s pay based on their religious beliefs.
Like all forms of discrimination, religious discrimination can at times be difficult to discern. Although some instances – such as when an employer explicitly informs a prospective employee that they will not hire workers of a certain religion – are overtly discriminatory, while other adverse employment actions are more subtle in nature. Employees who are repeatedly subject to crude or derogatory remarks about their religion can argue that they have been subject to a hostile work environment. Similarly, when employees of one faith are consistently assigned less desirable work tasks or shifts than employees of a different faith, it is possible that they have been discriminated against.
Other common examples of religious discrimination in the workplace include:
- Instituting dress or grooming codes that unfairly target workers of a particular religion.
- Intentionally and persistently failing to observe etiquette related to their religion, after having been corrected.
- Jokes, slurs, or harassment based on a worker’s religion or religious garments or practices.
- Terminating or disciplining an employee in retaliation for making a complaint.
Religious Accommodation in the Workplace for New Jersey Employees
Under both state and federal law, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to their employees with sincerely held religious beliefs. For example:
- Employers may not demand that workers refrain from wearing certain religious garments, such as a hijab or yarmulke, unless the attire interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their job.
- Employees observing the Sabbath may require time off from work without pay.
- Employees of Muslim faith may need periodic breaks to pray.
- A Catholic employee may need to schedule time off to attend church services, for example on Good Friday.
- An atheist may ask to be excused from any religious invocations at a work function.
Such accommodations must be provided to employees without punishment, unless an employer can establish that the accommodation would cause an undue hardship on the business.
What Should I Do If I Have Been The Victim Of Religious Discrimination In The Workplace in NJ?
If you believe your employer, coworker, or other work associate has discriminated against you based on your religion, you should contact an experienced religious discrimination lawyer at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. first to discuss your rights and options – which may include internal complaints or a lawsuit. Our law firm will help you every step of the way in seeking justice for unlawful religious discrimination in the workplace.