by Jacquelyn Smith
Despite all the increased awareness, warnings, and abundant corporate training available today, some hiring managers still openly ask illegal questions during the job interview, says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job."
One of the most discriminatory queries of all is, "Which religion do you practice?"
"It may be that you're dealing with an inexperienced hiring manager," Taylor says. "But more often than not, interviewers who inquire about religion are trying to get at your work schedule. Questions about whether you observe certain holidays or attend a place of worship have little to do with your job, and you have no compelling reason to shed light on them. If a company wants to know more about your availability or schedule, they should not link it to a religious inquiry."
While you don't have to answer the question, you also don't want to come off as combative and hurt your chances of securing the job. So what do you say when put on the spot?
"Your challenge is to enlighten the employer to focus on your commitment without letting your emotions get in the way," Taylor says. "Realize that, like other discriminatory interview questions, it's probably the manager's lack of experience behind the question, and you can take the high road. You can also get to the bottom of any discriminatory practices by inquiring politely."
Taylor and Adam Robinson, CEO of Hireology, a software platform that simplifies the hiring process, offer seven examples of responses you could give to the discriminatory, "Which religion do you practice?" interview question without sounding like a jerk:
#6. "Interesting question. Is there a particular reason you ask?"
Read Journey's OpEd for generally agreed upon guidelines about teaching about religion in the public school: Is the public school a religion-free zone?
New York City & State anti-religious discrimination laws are among the most strict in the nation. Organizations like churches, synagogues and mosques may utilize religious criteria in their hiring.
It is sometimes hard to prove religious discrimination because no overt acts or statements of a discriminatory measure are made by the employer or school administrator. Many cases on racial discrimination have been won by showing that the hiring patterns clearly indicate the discrimination. However, these types of suits have not been widely utilized in religious discrimination cases.
From the New York City Bar Association:
Federal law prohibits companies with more than 15 employees from discriminating on the basis of a job applicant’s or an employee’s religion or religious belief (or non-belief). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from basing a decision to hire, fire, pay, give job assignments, promote, layoff, train, alter benefits, and any other condition of employment on religion. New York State and New York City law also prohibit religious discrimination by employers with more than 4 employees. if requested, employers must make reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious belief and practice unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer’s business.
From the U.S. Department of Justice:
Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion in public schools and colleges. The Educational Opportunities Section works to ensure that all persons, regardless of their religion are provided equal educational opportunities.
From the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission:
Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.
Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group.
Religious Discrimination & Work Situations
The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
Religious Discrimination & Harassment
It is illegal to harass a person because of his or her religion.
Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person’s religious beliefs or practices. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is 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 the victim being fired or demoted).
The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
Religious Discrimination and Segregation
Title VII also prohibits workplace or job segregation based on religion (including religious garb and grooming practices), such as assigning an employee to a non-customer contact position because of actual or feared customer preference.
Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation
The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer's business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion.
Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.