The workplace-related civil rights protections that now exist in this country ensure that a person's ability to find or maintain a job is not adversely affected by his or her age, sex, national origin, religion or certain other protected characteristics. The existence of such anti-discrimination laws does not mean that workplace discrimination never occurs, however. In DC and across the country, these types of incidents still take place. Recently, the Supreme Court heard what could be a landmark case related to alleged religious discrimination.
The case currently at the Supreme Court involves a woman who applied for a job in 2008 at Abercrombie and Fitch, the prospective employer. The woman, who is a practicing Muslim, wore her hijab during the interview and ultimately did not get the job because she was wearing the headscarf. The reason for denying employment was the company's "look policy" that does not allow employees to wear black clothing or "caps." The company argues that the prospective employee never requested a religious accommodation and that accommodating her religious wear would have created an undue hardship. One of the key issues being debated in the case is whether a prospective employee must affirmatively ask for an accommodation or whether it is the responsibility of the employer to inquire if there is a need for an accommodation.
Cases involving workplace discrimination can be legally complicated, especially in light of today's diverse society. However, it is critical to bring these types of cases when discrimination occurs in order to continue the advancement and protection of employees' essential civil rights. Workplace discrimination can occur for many different reasons and can take many different forms. For these reasons, no two cases involving workplace discrimination are exactly alike.
In some cases, workplace discrimination occurs as described above, when a prospective employee does not get a job because of the potential employer's dislike of a particular protected characteristic of the job-seeker. Workplace discrimination can also involve being denied promotions; unequal pay; hostile, degrading or disparate treatment; retaliation; and other wrongful actions. There are many protections for employees that exist in both state and federal laws, so employees who feel that they have suffered workplace discrimination do not need to hesitate to seek legal advice.
Source: The Hill, "Supreme Court takes up religion in the workplace," Lydia Wheeler, Feb. 25, 2015