McNamee Hosea News & Press


Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination based on religion is just one of multiple things most employees in the state of Maryland are protected from. These protections are provided to those who work for private companies that employ 15 or more employees, under Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

What does Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 mean for employers?

First and foremost, it means an employer needs to provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees in conjunction with the practices and beliefs tied to their religion. These accommodations need to be provided unless doing so would cause “undue hardship” to the employer. If an employer does not make these reasonable accommodations, it could face legal action from the employee.

What qualifies as religious practice and beliefs?

Courts have taken up this issue and created some guidelines. For example, religion is not the same as ethical, political or social viewpoints. The belief or practice should be:

  • Sincere
  • Central
  • Influence behavior

In addition, it also must concern “ultimate ideas” having to do with “life, purpose, and death.” The sincerity of a practice or belief will be determined by looking at the objective practice and subjective belief of the employee.

What could qualify as a reasonable accommodation?

Depending on the circumstances it is possible an employer might allow employees to modify their dress or grooming. Employees could be granted requested shift and schedule changes. Employers could also allow flex schedules and voluntary transfers. In some situations religious conversation or prayer could be allowed if it is not disruptive to others.

To be held responsible for religious discrimination, an employer must be aware of the employee’s religious belief.


Employment matters involving religion are often complex. As a result, working with a lawyer is generally advised.