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What is the scope of the Title VII prohibition on disparate treatment based on religion?

What is the scope of the Title VII prohibition on disparate treatment based on religion?

Title VII’s prohibition against disparate (different) treatment based on religion generally functions like its prohibition against disparate treatment based on race, color, sex, or national origin.  Disparate treatment violates the statute whether the difference is motivated by bias against or preference toward an applicant or employee due to his religious beliefs, practices, or observances – or lack thereof.  For example, except to the extent permitted by the religious organization or ministerial exceptions:

  • Employers may not refuse to recruit, hire, or promote individuals of a certain religion, impose stricter promotion requirements for persons of a certain religion, or impose more or different work requirements on an employee because of that employee’s religious beliefs or practices.
  • Employers may not refuse to hire an applicant simply because he does not share the employer’s religious beliefs, and conversely may not select one applicant over another based on a preference for employees of a particular religion.
  • Employment agencies may not comply with requests from employers to engage in discriminatory recruitment or referral practices, for example by screening out applicants who have names often associated with a particular religion (e.g., Mohammed).
  • Employers may not exclude an applicant from hire merely because he or she may need a reasonable accommodation that could be provided absent undue hardship.
    The prohibition against disparate treatment based on religion also applies to disparate treatment of religious expression in the workplace.For example, if an employer allowed one secretary to display a Bible on her desk at work while telling another secretary in the same workplace to put the Quran on his desk out of view because co-workers “will think you are making a political statement, and with everything going on in the world right now we don’t need that around here,” this would be differential treatment in violation of Title VII.