California law provides protection against workplace discrimination of various kinds. Protected classes include race, gender, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and military or veteran status. Another major protected class, and the subject of this blog post, is religion. This blog post will describe the prohibition against religious discrimination in a little more detail.
Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, California employers may not discriminate against employees, unpaid interns and job applicants on the basis of religion. Employers are prohibited from discriminating in hiring, assignments, promotions, or termination. They may not use religious discrimination to affect any term, condition or privilege of employment. Unions and employment agencies also may not discriminate on the basis of religion.
In addition to religion, employers also may not discriminate on the basis of one’s religious dress and grooming practices. They must reasonably accommodate one’s religious beliefs and practices. This includes accommodating hair styles, facial hair and body hair that express a person’s religious beliefs. Employers must also reasonably accommodate the wearing of religious jewelry, religious artifacts, and religious clothing.
If a person reports, opposes or assists another person in opposing unlawful religious discrimination, the employer may not retaliate against that person. If an employer, agency or union fails to grant equal employment opportunity on the basis of religion, job applicants, unpaid interns, employees and volunteers must be allowed to file complaints with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Complaints must be filed within one year of the last act of discrimination or the victim’s 18th birthday for minors. Remedies that may be available include hiring, front and back pay, reinstatement, promotion, cease-and-desist orders, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, expert witness fees, punitive damages, and emotional distress damages.