Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion (or lack of religious belief) in hiring, firing, or any other aspect of their employment.
In addition, the Act requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of applicants and employees, unless doing so would impose more than a minimal burden on the operation of the their business. A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his religion. Examples of accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs can include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, lateral transfers, and exceptions to dress or grooming rules.
These religious accommodations and others may cause undue hardship for the employer if they are costly, compromise workplace safety, decrease workplace efficiency, infringe on the rights of other employees, or require other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.
Beyond religious discrimination, Title VII and the IHRA prohibit religious harassment of employees, such as offensive remarks about a person's religious beliefs or practices. While the law doesn't prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren't very serious, harassment may be illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as being fired or demoted).
Title VII applies to employers (including employment agencies and unions) with 15 or more employees, and to federal, state, and local governments. Employees who are victims of religious discrimination under Title VII may be entitled to recover compensatory and punitive damages as well as back pay, reinstatement or front pay, and attorneys’ fees and costs. Importantly, Title VII does place caps on the amount of compensatory and punitive damages for which an employer may be liable. The caps are based on the size of the employer’s workforce:
15 - 100 employees
101 - 200 employees
201 - 500 employees
501 or more employees
In contrast to Title VII, the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) does not place caps on the amount of damages that are recoverable under the Act. For religious discrimination, the IHRA covers employers with 15 or more employees in the state of Illinois, public contractors, and state governmental units.
If you believe that you have been the victim of religious discrimination at work, you must timely file a Charge of Discrimination before filing a civil lawsuit. We encourage you to contact our Chicago workplace discrimination attorneys to set up a free consultation in time to learn about your rights and options under the law.
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