Federal law and state rules recognize certain characteristics as vulnerability points for possible discrimination. Landlords, employers and even educational institutions sometimes make decisions based on personal characteristics that have no bearing on whether an individual should receive an opportunity.
The laws that acknowledge these protected characteristics help people avoid or fight back against multiple different types of discrimination. There are rules against discrimination based on sex and race, for example, as well as rules addressing discrimination based on religion and cultural background.
People often think of religious discrimination as an issue for those working in religious environments or practicing minority religions. However, religious discrimination can potentially affect those who do not belong to a faith as well as those who regularly attend religious services.
Agnostic and atheist individuals also have protection
Religious discrimination does not just involve judging a person for the faith that they observe. It also involves denying someone opportunities because they choose not to practice a faith at all. In recent decades, people have begun to feel more empowered about rejecting the religion of their parents and either pursuing their own beliefs or choosing not to observe a religion at all.
In theory, non-religious individuals can be very beneficial in the workplace. They won’t refuse to work on Saturdays or Sundays due to religious observances, and they also typically won’t ask for holidays off the way that those who strictly observe their faith might. Unfortunately, when a business has religious leadership, those in positions of authority at the company may not see the value of having agnostic, atheist or non-religious employees.
In some cases, they may openly begin to discriminate against workers because they do not belong to a religion. Workers experiencing mistreatment because of their religious beliefs, including a lack thereof, may have grounds to take action against the business.
When an employer terminates someone because of their lack of religion or refuses to offer them the same opportunities as religious workers, that can be an actionable form of workplace discrimination just like refusing to promote someone because of their Jewish or Muslim beliefs. Being able to identify the different ways that religious discrimination manifests in the workplace may benefit those treated differently than others because of what they believe or do not believe.