In the State of California, applicants and employees are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA); hence, they have the right not to be discriminated because of their religion or religious affiliation.

Religion discrimination statistics in California

In the fiscal year 2011, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received at least 394 religion discrimination complaints from California. This number made up 9.5 percent of the total religion discrimination charges nationwide.

Title VII and religion discrimination

Under Title VII, any employer in the country with 15 or more employees is strictly prohibited from discriminating against workers and applicants based on their religious creed and religious practices. Also, this federal law implores covered employers to reasonably accommodate employees who need specific favors with respect to their religion-related concerns.

FEHA and religion discrimination

FEHA is a California state law, which means that it only applies to employers, employees, and applicants in the state. Under this state law, employers with five or more employees are not allowed to show bias against employees and applicants because of their religion and religious practices. Similar to Title VII, this state law implores employers to reasonably accommodate individuals who are affiliated with certain religious group.

Reasonable accommodation

The mentioned laws implore covered employers to reasonably accommodate employees who need to excuse themselves from typical work-related duties so as to fulfill their religious practices. However, if the favor being asked by the employee will result in undue hardship to the business of the employer, reasonable accommodation may not be granted without drawing any legal dispute.

Common religion-related reasonable accommodations that employees may request from their employers include:

•    Request for change of work schedule to attend religious activities (e.g. Sabbath day)
•    Request to be exempted from the grooming policies of the company (e.g. not cutting of hair for Nazirites)
•    Request to take a leave to attend religious activities
•    Request not to attend religious services conducted by the company

Getting legal assistance when discriminated

California employees who believe that they were subjected to religion discrimination in the workplace should get the legal services of an experienced Los Angeles discrimination attorney who can help them in formally filing a lawsuit. Discriminated employees or applicants are also advised to file a complaint with the EEOC or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) to possibly arbitrate the case.