Employment Law Blog

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Blowing the Whistle on Religious Discrimination

Q: Do I have to work on a religious holiday?

Employment lawyers know that despite state and federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, and religion, employees in these protected classes are still victims of discrimination. Sometimes employers don't discriminate overtly, but in other instances their actions may be harder to hide.

In addition, disparate impact discrimination --when an employer applies the same policy, rule or practice to every employee, but it has a disproportionately negative impact on employees who are members of a protected class-- can be hard to identify.  

Another related workplace issue is an employer’s retaliation or wrongful discharge of employees who complain about discrimination either on their own behalf or on behalf of someone else.

In any case, discrimination must be routed out and affected workers should be compensated for these wrongs.

Damages may include back pay, attorney’s fees, court costs, pain and suffering, and in some cases punitive damages.

Consider this case of alleged religious discrimination which is simply full of irony. A Jewish man received an offer of employment. A new job…a new start at a new company. He was told to report for his for first day on the job on October 3, 2016 – coincidentally the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

Because Rosh Hashanah is one of Jewish High Holy days, he asked to start the day after that, but was allegedly told that the company only honored federal holidays. When he reported to work for the first time on October 4th, the company reportedly rescinded his offer of employment and sent him home.

According to federal law, employers are required to make "reasonable adjustments to work schedules or rules that will allow an applicant or employee to practice his or her religion unless it would be an undue hardship". At issue is whether a one-day postponement of an employee's start date for a religious observance constituted an undue hardship for the company.

For those who are unaware, Rosh Hashanah is considered the Jewish New Year – – a time of new beginnings and celebration. A part of the religious observance includes “raising a noise” by blowing the shofar, which is a horn. Along with Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah is one of the holiest days of the year in the Jewish religion.

How ironic that this Jewish man-- just about to embark on a new year at a new job—had to defend his right to blow the shofar by instead blowing the whistle on the company’s alleged religion-based discriminatory practices.


If you believe you have been or are being discriminated against in the workplace, the Baror Law Firm can help you obtain just compensation. Call us today at 301-812-4546 to schedule a consultation. From our office in Bethesda, we serve discrimination clients throughout Maryland including Silver Spring, Gaithersburg, and Rockville.

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