Religious Beliefs Harassment
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits the harassment of individuals based on their religious beliefs. Harassment in this case is considered unlawful if it has been motivated by the individual’s religious affiliation, and has created an inhospitable work environment for the employee. Actions that are indicative of harassment include gestures, written comments, and verbal comments regarding an individual’s clothing, hair, practices, etc. Taunting, mocking or even outright forcing someone to conceal their religious beliefs at work (e.g. making fun of/prohibiting pieces of clothing related to an employee’s religion) can be mentally draining on an employee. If this behavior leads to lost opportunities in the work force due to reluctance to give up religious practices, it may even be considered a form of discrimination.
Harassment of any kind is difficult to punish, as it is difficult to prove that the comments were made with malicious intent. However, by using statistics from within the workplace, it is possible to convince a judge that the comments were meant to be insulting. Even if comments are made sparingly, they can still have a damaging effect on employees of any religious affiliation.
In order for the plaintiff to have the strongest case possible, it is important that the employee has made it clear to the perpetrators that their comments and actions have been bothering them and that they wish it to stop. When possible, it is also important that the employee report this type of behavior to a supervisor; by law, employers are required to take all reasonable actions to prevent harassment in the workplace. If the harassment continues, the complainant will have a stronger case based on the fact that they discussed the harassment with the violator as well as the supervisor. It is important for an employee to know and understand their rights in the workplace, but it is equally important to know what is expected of employers.