Work in the Time of COVID-19: FAQs for Employers

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released a one-page fact sheet, which it says will help young workers understand their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and specifically protections prohibiting religious discrimination. The publication, “Religion & Your Job Rights,” explains to young workers the scope of protections against religious harassment or discrimination and includes several examples of scenarios that would or would not be illegal religious discrimination. It also provides information to young workers about how to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. The document is available as a pdf on the EEOC website.

The EEOC also announced it will begin collecting more precise data about the religion of individuals alleging discrimination so it can “recognize and respond” to trends in charge data, and likely so it can publish those trends to the public. EEOC and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (which enforces affirmative action and equal employment opportunity obligations for companies that contract with the federal government) will also work together to develop joint outreach and education efforts about religious discrimination.

The EEOC has been focused on religious discrimination for the last several years. In 2015, it received 3,502 charges alleging religious discrimination. Since 2010, the EEOC has also filed 73 lawsuits involving claims of religious discrimination. During the past several years, the agency has published guidance documents focused on religious discrimination, including publications focused on discrimination against people who are or are perceived to be Muslim or Middle Eastern, and a technical assistance publication concerning religious garb and grooming in the workplace.

Employers should be aware of the EEOC’s increased focus on religious harassment and discrimination and be especially diligent to follow EEOC guidance on avoiding harassment and discrimination, and, equally important, on providing reasonable accommodations to employees who request them for religious reasons.

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