Religious Discrimination in Massachusetts – How To Identify Employer Violations and Protect Your Rights
The majority of people in Massachusetts identify with one religion or another. No matter what your religion is — whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or any other religion — it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of your religion.
Most people already have a basic understanding of what religious discrimination is. For instance, it could be using derogatory epithets aimed at a certain religion. Or, it could be treating someone differently than other employees on the basis of their religion. There are many ways that religious discrimination can occur.
But there are two basic principles that underlie whether an employer’s actions qualify as religious discrimination in Massachusetts:
- First, employers cannot treat employees less favorably based upon their religion.
- Second, employers cannot require employees to violate their religious beliefs as a condition of employment, unless the employer can prove that accommodating the employee would impose an undue hardship.
What sort of religious beliefs are subject to protection? Many. The Massachusetts Supreme Court has provided a test: The employee must prove “any sincerely held religious beliefs, without regard to whether such beliefs are approved, espoused, prescribed or required by an established church or other religion.” To put it another way, the employee must simply hold beliefs that are religious in nature, and those beliefs need not be part of any organized religious doctrine.
The main law that prohibits religious discrimination in Massachusetts is Chapter 151B, Section 4(1A), of the Massachusetts General Laws. It states that it is illegal in Massachusetts for an employer to force an employee to violate their religious principles.
The exception to this law is if the religious accommodation to the employee would require more than a “reasonable accommodation.” That is, it should not impose an “undue hardship in the conduct of the employer’s business.”
For instance, most employers must allow employees to take off the Sabbath (Sundays, or sometimes Saturdays, for most Christians), to pray five times per day (as in the case of many Muslims), to wear religious garb like a hijab, yarmulke, or various clothing or hair styles.
Religious-discrimination cases are usually filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and may then be transferred to the Superior Court.
If you feel you have been discriminated against on the basis of your religion, contact Culik Law for a no-cost case evaluation to see if we can help you.