Termination Based On Religious Beliefs: A Religious Discrimination And Retaliation Risk

A large restaurant chain faces a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by a woman who says her employer terminated her because of her pagan religious beliefs.

The woman worked as a baker for the restaurant for five months without issue. After a conversation with the store manager and assistant manager in which she disclosed her pagan religious beliefs, she says she began to experience discrimination. The manager cut her work hours, telling her that she "needed to find God." The manager also deducted wages for work breaks that she did not take and denied her request to transfer to another store. She contacted the restaurant's corporate human resources department but did not receive a response.

The harassment continued, and eventually the manager asked the plaintiff to give notice of leaving, then terminated her.

The plaintiff is requesting a jury trial and is seeking an undisclosed amount in damages. Heather Greene "A pagan says she faced religious discrimination while working at Panera. Now, she's suing." www.washingtonpost.com (Apr. 02, 2021).

Commentary

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace harassment and discrimination based on religious beliefs.

In the above matter, the complainant professed a belief in paganism. Even less common religious, such as paganism, are under the protective umbrella of Title VII. So long as the complainant’s beliefs are sincerely held, then they have the right to make a claim.

When negative employment actions quickly follow a conflict about beliefs, the negative employment actions may appear retaliatory. Retaliation is a separate claim under Title VII and can survive even if the underlying religious discrimination or harassment claim should fail. This means the complainant may be unable to prove that religious discrimination occurred, but may be able to continue to bring a claim of retaliation.

Every complaint should be investigated thoroughly, promptly, and objectively. If harassment or discrimination has occurred, an employer must take appropriate steps to address it. Make sure your employees know who to report to and how to do it.


 

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