Religious Discrimination sample essay

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Religious discrimination under Title VII as defined by the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) involves treating a person unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. The law forbids discrimination on the basis of religion in any and all aspects of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and benefits.

Title VII also prohibits workplace segregation based on religion, such as assigning an employee to a non-customer contact position because of actual or presumed customer preference. Title VII also addresses reasonable accommodation in relation to religion. The law requires that the employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the employers business.

For example, if an employee needs to be off work on Sunday mornings to regularly attend church services it would be the responsibility of the employer to reasonably attempt to accommodate this need. An accommodation for this could include paying another employee to cover the Sunday morning shift, even if it requires paying overtime. Or the employer could hire an additional employee to be able to cover the shift. Since Title 7 of the United States Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 there have been several judicial decisions that have molded the way this law in interpreted and applied.

The first such court case that I came across was the case of Welsh V. United States which brought into question what types of beliefs can be used to obtain conscientious objector status when being selected to go to war. In this case the prosecutor was convicted of refusing to accept induction into the armed forces; he did claim conscientious objector status but did not base this decision off religion. He did not claim to believe in a deity that would morally keep him from fighting in a war, he instead asserted his own personal moral opposition to any conflict in which people are being killed.

He alleged that the sincerity of his belief should qualify him for exemption from military duty under the Universal Military Training and Service Act. The Act allowed only those people whose opposition to the war was based on religious beliefs to be declared conscientious objectors. However in a 5-3 decision the court allowed Welsh to be declared a conscientious objector even though his opposition was not based on religious convictions. The implication this case has on Human Resources Management is that HR personnel must be aware of the broad scope of beliefs that will be protected under Title 7.

Whereas before this case only majorly defined religions such as Judaism and Catholicism would be protected you now see religions such as scientology seeking protection under the law. Another relevant case would be Seshadri v. Kasraian which established that an employee bringing a religious discrimination claim does not need to belong to an established church. Another case that has shaped this law and impacted human resource management was Campos v. City of Blue Springs.

In April 1996 Campos was hired as a crisis counselor for the Blue Springs Police Department’s Youth Outreach Program (YOU). At the time she did not have the advanced degree as required by the written job description, but her supervisor told her that she would have until February 1997 to obtain her degree and guarantee her position. She was also guaranteed via verbal contract that she would be paid an extra $10,000 per year for support group work, she would be a team leader within three months, and she would be an assistant director within six months of starting her full-time employment.

She began working in October 1996, enjoying her job until she disclosed to her supervisor that she observes tenets of Native American Spirituality, not Christianity. Campos claimed that immediately her supervisor’s behavior towards her changed; she was unfriendly and critical, excluded her from employee meetings, and told her that she may not have been a good fit for the job. After failing to show up to work due to attending a mandatory meeting to obtain her dissertation, which was required by her employer, Campos received so much scrutiny from her supervisor that she resigned.

After her resignation, Campos filed suit against the City, alleging that she suffered from employment discrimination based upon her religion, sex, and national origin. The charges of sex and national origin discrimination were eliminated, and the case was submitted to the jury on the theory that Campos was constructively discharged because of her religion. On April 13, 2001, the jury awarded Campos $79,200 for back pay and compensatory damages. The district court denied the City’s Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, or in the Alternative, for a New Trial, and awarded Campos’s attorneys 90,556. 20 in fees and $11,825. 41 in expenses.

This case has implications on Human Resources Management today because it establishes that employment decisions cannot be made based on whether or not an employee or potential employee agrees or disagrees with the employers religious views. One relevant business that comes to mind is Chik Fil A and their openly Christian beliefs. Even though they include Christian values in the core content of their mission statement and business plan they know that they cannot make any employment decisions based on religious affiliation.

In Eatman V. United Parcel Service in 2002 the company’s policy of requiring its drivers that had unconventional hairstyles to wear hats was called into question. The plaintiff was required by the company to wear a hat while on the clock because his hairstyle of choice was dreadlocks, a hairstyle where sections of hair are hand-rolled together in tight, interwoven spirals.

After putting “a lot of thought” into the decision, Eatman, who is black, began wearing locks in February 1995 as “an outward expression of an internal commitment to his Protestant faith as well as his Nubian belief system. At this same time he also became enlightened about locked hair and its connection to African identity and heritage. The position that his supervisor at UPS took on his hair was that the company uses common sense to determine which hairstyles are not businesslike; he finds ponytails, Mohawks, green hair, “carved” shapes, and locked hair—short or long—unacceptable. And there were currently 19 other drivers at this particular UPS that were required to wear hats to cover their unconventional hairstyles, including others that had dreadlocks.

Even though Eatman claimed that the policy was discriminatory the jury did not rule in his favor. It was ruled that Eatman’s hairstyle was dictated by a personal choice. Nowhere in his religious texts did it dictate in any way that followers of the faith must wear their hair uncovered in dreadlocks. The implications of this case are actually pro employer and pro Human Resource Manager. It shows that not every claim that an employee makes based off of religious need has to be immediately catered to.

There are cases where the request can be frivolous and off topic of religion, in which case the employer does not need to go out of their way to make accommodations. Another very interesting court case that I came across was EEOC v. Union Independiete De La Autoridad De Acueductos y Alcantarillados De Puerto Rico. I found this case to be very interesting because it stipulates that employees cannot pick and choose which parts of their religion they wish to follow and which ones they do not. In this case the issue was whether or not a Seventh – day Adventist’s objection to union membership was the product of a sincerely held belief.

Although the religious foundation of the Seventh – day Adventist faith’s opposition to union membership has long been recognized, there was evidence that this employee often acted in a manner inconsistent with his professed religious beliefs. He was divorced, took an oath before a notary upon becoming a public employee, worked five days a week (instead of the six days required by his faith), and there was some evidence that the alleged conflict between his beliefs and union membership was a moving target.

This case seemed important because is forces the employee to prove that religion is vital part of their life. It keeps them from claiming that they are Christian for the sole purpose of being off on Christmas, or from claiming that they are Catholic only to be off on Easter. It not only keeps people from faking being religious but it also helps to ensure the sanctity of those who actually are as religious as they claim to be. And the final court case that I found addresses sincerely held beliefs that have not always been there but can conceivably come about.

In the case of E. E. O. C. v. Ilona of Hungary, Inc. an employee sincerely believed that she should refrain from working on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur even though she had not frequently celebrated Jewish holidays in the past. Her rise in faith was brought on by recent family events such as the passing of her mother-in-law and father, the birth of her son, and her husband’s rising faith. The court decided that these were significant enough to have caused a change in lifestyle and that she did believably have a real change of faith.

After reviewing all of the cases mentioned above, along with numerous others, I have found that the topic of religion isn’t nearly as “black and white” as most would assume. There are many grey areas: What constitutes religion, how do you know if someone legitimately believes in their religion, and what aspects of someone’s lifestyle are pertinent to their claimed religion are just a few examples of where courts have to make a decision that will affect the way this topic is viewed for years to come.

With the world become more and more diversified every day the topic of religion and all others under title 7 will continue to be tested and pushed to their limits. It is the job of the Human Resources Management team to be on high alert of potential discrimination cases and have all employees properly trained on these matters to ensure it does not happen at their company.