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Title VIIs 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.
It is designed to be a practical resource for employers, employees, practitioners, and EEOC enforcement staff on Title VIIs prohibition against religious discrimination, and provides guidance on how to balance the needs of individuals in a diverse religious climate. For purposes of Title VII, religion includes not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or that seem illogical or unreasonable to others.The exception applies only to employees who perform essentially religious functions, namely those whose primary duties consist of engaging in church governance, supervising a religious order, or conducting religious ritual, worship, or instruction.Some courts have made an exception for harassment claims where they concluded that analysis of the case would not implicate these constitutional constraints. What is the scope of the Title VII prohibition on disparate treatment based on religion?Social, political, or economic philosophies, as well as mere personal preferences, are not religious beliefs protected by Title VII.Religious observances or practices include, for example, attending worship services, praying, wearing religious garb or symbols, displaying religious objects, adhering to certain dietary rules, proselytizing or other forms of religious expression, or refraining from certain activities.Even unwelcome religiously motivated conduct is not unlawful unless the victimsubjectively perceives the environment to be abusive and the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive.Religious expression that is repeatedly directed at an employee can become severe or pervasive, whether or not the content is intended to be insulting or abusive.Although courts generally resolve doubts about particular beliefs in favor of finding that they are religious, beliefs are not protected merely because they are strongly held.Rather, religion typically concerns ultimate ideas about life, purpose, and death.Discrimination based on religion within the meaning of Title VII could include, for example: not hiring an otherwise qualified applicant because he is a self-described evangelical Christian; a Jewish supervisor denying a promotion to a qualified non-Jewish employee because the supervisor wishes to give a preference based on religion to a fellow Jewish employee; or, terminating an employee because he told the employer that he recently converted to the Bahai Faith.Similarly, requests for accommodation of a religious belief or practice could include, for example: a Catholic employee requesting a schedule change so that he can attend church services on Good Friday; a Muslim employee requesting an exception to the companys dress and grooming code allowing her to wear her headscarf, or a Hindu employee requesting an exception allowing her to wear her bindi (religious forehead marking); an atheist asking to be excused from the religious invocation offered at the beginning of staff meetings; an adherent to Native American spiritual beliefs seeking unpaid leave to attend a ritual ceremony; or an employee who identifies as Christian but is not affiliated with a particular sect or denomination requests accommodation of his religious belief that working on his Sabbath is prohibited. Are there any exceptions to who is covered by Title VIIs religion provisions? While Title VIIs jurisdictional rules apply to all religious discrimination claims under the statute, see EEOC Compliance Manual, Threshold Issues, https://gov/policy/docs/threshold.html, specially-defined religious organizations and religious educational institutions are exempt from certain religious discrimination provisions, and a ministerial exception bars Title VII claims by employees who serve in clergy roles.