Religion And Creed Discrimination
The right to observe the religion or creed of your choice is a precious one guaranteed by the United States Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, and in the New Jersey State Constitution. There is no “regular,” “traditional,” or “normal” religion in this country. One of the great strengths of the United States, and of the State of New Jersey, is diversity in all of its many shapes and types. Spiritual diversity is one of those strengths. Some people are Jewish, some are Muslim, some are Hindu, some are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic, Christian, Wiccan, Mormon or Pagan. Some people are atheists or agnostics and don’t believe at all. Everyone has precisely the same right to be a member of any of those groups or none of them.
Religious discrimination and a failure to provide reasonable religious accommodation are both illegal under the New Jersey State Law Against Discrimination, one of the most powerful Civil Rights statutes in the United States.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination not only prohibits discrimination because of “someone’s religious observance or creed, or the absence of it,” but also requires reasonable “accommodation” by an employer to accommodate “sincerely held” religious belief. That doesn’t mean that everyone gets off on every Sabbath day from every job in the state, but it means that you and the employer have to have a good faith interactive dialogue about how the employer can reasonably — that is, without an undue hardship or burden — accommodate your sincerely held religious belief.
Your religious belief must be “sincere,” not merely a passing interest or something that is engaged in only occasionally. If it is sincere, an employer must attempt to accommodate it if it’s not an undue burden or hardship to do so. As well, an employer can’t discriminate against you simply because you have a particular religious belief that is not popular or that is not akin to the dominant religious belief that your employer holds or that his or her clients, customers or your co-workers hold. No one can be forced to pray on the job, and no one can be forced to listen to religious proselytizing or propaganda.
No one can be told that his or her lifestyle, sexual orientation, marital choices or other life choices, all of which are protected under the Constitution, are somehow “wrong,” morally or otherwise, simply because they don’t happen to be in accord with the religious beliefs of an employer, supervisor or coworker.
Likewise, the tenets of someone’s faith and religious belief cannot be denigrated or made fun of simply because they don’t happen to be akin to the beliefs held by the religion expressed by the predominant number of workers in the workplace. Religious headgear, religious adornment and other religious garb are all legal and must be accommodated and protected from discrimination in the workplace under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
Employers who fail to afford reasonable religious accommodation, or who permit discrimination based upon religious belief or creed, are violating the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and may be exposing themselves to compensatory and punitive damages.