Religious Discrimination

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Religious Discrimination


The primary statute governing religious discrimination in the employment context is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, public employers are subject to liability under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution for retaliation based on an employee' constitutionally protected religious speech or the employee's exercise of his or her religious beliefs. After analyzing the case it can be found out that, title VII has dramatically changed the way organizations conduct business. With the enactment of various anti-discrimination laws, employers have found themselves with a workforce that is more reflective of the world in which we live. Title VII has not abolished discrimination from the workplace, however as more and more claims of discrimination are thrust to the forefront, employers have a better understanding of the implications associated with unfair employment practices.

Religious Discrimination


Cloutier v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 390 F.3d 126 (1st Cir. December 1, 2004) - This is a Title VII religious discrimination action. Kimberly Cloutier worked as a cashier for Costco. In March 2001, Costco revised its dress code to prohibit all facial jewelry, aside from earrings. Cloutier was advised to remove facial piercings. Cloutier refused because she is a member of the Church of Body Modification (CBM), which was established in 1999 and has about 1,000 members who participate in such practices as piercing, tattooing, branding, cutting, and body manipulation. Eventually, Cloutier was fired. The district court granted summary judgment on the basis that Costco had offered a reasonable accommodation. But the First Circuit decides to uphold the grant of summary judgment on other grounds.

The only accommodation that Cloutier will accept is exemption from the dress code. The First Circuit holds that Costco had no duty to offer a reasonable accommodation because doing so would create an undue hardship. An accommodation constitutes an undue hardship if it would impose more than a de minimis cost on the employer. The undue hardship claimed by Costco is that it has a legitimate interest in presenting a workforce to its customers that is, at least in Costco's eyes, reasonably professional in appearance. Costco has determined that facial piercings, aside from earrings, detract from the "neat, clean and professional image" that it aims to cultivate. Such a business determination is within its discretion. For similar reasons, the Court also upholds the grant of summary judgment on a claim brought under Massachusetts state law.

Religious Discrimination in the workplace under Title II

Imagine that a devoutly religious employee, in response to his employer's newlyimplemented campaign to increase workplace diversity, begins posting Bible passages in his work area that arguably condemn homosexuality and tells his employer that his religious beliefs require him to post such messages? How should the employer respond? What about a shift worker who, although subject to a strict seniority system, requests to take every Saturday off from his regularly scheduled shift to observe his Sabbath? Or what about an employee who constantly states “Have a Blessed Day” or “Praise the Lord” to customers and ...
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