Types of Workplace Harassment Based on Religion | Mann & Elias
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Types of Workplace Harassment Based on Religion


Religion should not be an issue in the workplace. Your sincerely held religious beliefs should not bar you from employment, promotion, or any other type of advancement. Nor should you be subjected to harassment for such beliefs. If you are an atheist, your right not to believe is also protected. Title VII under U.S. federal law and a range of California state laws forbid employers to discriminate and harass people because of their views on religion.

Harassment comes in many forms. It is not limited to mocking, cruelty, or intimidation. It may also consist of attempts to proselytize in the workplace. The latter can be just as harmful and humiliating as cruder types of behavior.

If you are being mistreated because of your religion or lack thereof, you do not have to take it. You can get the help you need by hiring an employment attorney in Los Angeles.

How Religious Discrimination Occurs in the Workplace

Most people who practice religious discrimination in the workplace do so in a way that is subtle and not immediately obvious. Here are some of the most common types of religious discrimination at work:

  1. Quid pro quo harassment

    Your employment or advancement should not be based on conformity to the religious beliefs of your boss. If you are told that you will have an easier time at work if you would only accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior or that you will be promoted if you study the principles of a certain religion or that the company is downsizing and only those who are willing to work on weekends, which may contain your Sabbath, will be kept on, then you have a case to make against your employer.

    It is also illegal for a manager who is highly religious to tempt you with promotion if you will only hear them out or go with them to church.

  2. Hostile work environment

    The law also protects you from having to work in a hostile environment. You cannot be made to feel unwelcome because of your religion. Of course, there are subtleties here. You may have colleagues who are genuinely interested in your religion or in the fact that you hold no religious beliefs. Sifting through the views and opinions of work colleagues is a good way to get to know each other. Things only turn ugly when people turn such friendly conversations into persistent harangues. If you are constantly confronted with the fact that you do not believe as they do and such contact with them is unavoidable, then you will not be very productive. Such an experience can also traumatize you to the point that you are forced to leave your job.

    No one should ever have to deal with this kind of harassment. If you were essentially forced from your job because of your beliefs, then you should contact a Los Angeles workplace attorney.


There are some religious faiths whose adherents are called upon to evangelize—to win converts to the faith. While some people understand that such proselytizing can only be done within reason, and certainly not at work, others feel restricted by no limitations. If a co-worker has befriended you and tried to gently coax you to attend church or a study group with them, their actions may be inappropriate but sincere. In this instance, you should simply express your non-interest. If they accept it and make no further attempt to talk to you about religion, then you can move on.

If, however, the co-worker is persistent and if they enlist others to work on you, then you may have a serious problem. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon problem in work settings in which people of the same faith have formed an informal network or study group. Such groups often target non-believers in ways that are not overly aggressive, but are nevertheless bothersome. If this kind of talk has become so persistent and distracting, it may rise to the level of harassment.

The Moment Your Employer Becomes Liable

Your employer has a legal obligation to take action once they have learned about the harassment. If the person harassing you is your supervisor, then you must take your complaint up their chain of command. Your company should have a complaints procedure that runs through the Human Resources department. If the harassment is allowed to continue and you are made to suffer as a result, then you will need to elevate the matter to a legal level.

Dealing with Religious Harassment

Before you take the legal route, you should find out if you can deal with matters informally. For most people, religion is a deeply personal set of beliefs. You may be dealing with someone who really cares for you and believes they are doing something that will help you find purpose and meaning in life. If you are a kind-hearted and open-minded person, you may be reticent to respond to proselytizing too harshly. However, if the attempts by your co-worker to convert you have reached the point of distraction, you may need to pull them aside and have a quiet word in which you make it plain that their proselytizing is no longer welcome and any future attempts will be seen as harassment. Most people will stop.

However, there are those who interpret their religion in a more tribal fashion. They believe that you must be with them or against them, and they will take action to coerce you into their way of thinking. If this is the kind of person you are dealing with and your employer does nothing to stop it, then you should contact a religious discrimination lawyer in Los Angeles.

Protecting Your Right to Believe or Not to Believe

If you have experienced discrimination for your religious beliefs in Los Angeles, then you should contact a religious discrimination lawyer in California. If you are given a hard time because you are an atheist, you should also call a workplace religious discrimination law firm. The discrimination attorney you hire will thoroughly investigate your situation. If you have experienced religious discrimination in Los Angeles, then others in the organization probably have as well. Your lawyer for religious discrimination will interview other employees about the climate in the workplace and document other instances of religious discrimination. Your attorney will also use emails, voicemails, and other messages that you received that indicate the bigotry you have been subjected to.


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