May 22, 2018 Category: Religious Harassment
A San Jose police officer has a filed a lawsuit against his department and the city, alleging that he has been the victim of workplace discrimination because he is Muslim. In his complaint, the officer explains that after the events on September 11, 2001, his fellow officers began to tease and taunt him because of his religion. He argues that even though he reported the abusive and derogatory comments to superiors, nothing changed. As a result, the officer continued to “endure the harassment every day” on the job. He filed the discrimination lawsuit claiming that there is “systemic Islamaphobia in the department.”
Religious Discrimination in San Jose
Federal and California state law provide employees with the right to be free from religious discrimination in the workplace. These protections extend to religion, religious creed, religious observance, religious belief, religious dress, and religious grooming.
Religious discrimination can take many shapes and forms. California employers are prohibited from engaging in any of the following behaviors if the motive is based on religion:
- Firing or terminating an employee
- Denying a promotion or raise
- Demoting or decreasing an employee’s pay
- Refusing to hire an applicant
- Denying equal pay or promotion
- Denying retirement or health benefits
- Ostracizing and excluding from company programs, or
In other words, any adverse employment action that is based on an employee’s religion (or lack thereof) is prohibited by law.
What is Religious Harassment?
Religious discrimination does not necessarily have to be as obvious as refusing to hire and/or firing an employee because of their religious affiliation. Many times, harassment based on a person’s religion is much more common. In California, employers are prohibited from creating or permitting a hostile workplace to exist because of harassing behavior on the basis of religion.
What is a hostile workplace, and how can one be created through religious harassment? One California court explained that a hostile work environment exists when:
- An employee is subject to unwelcome comments or conduct in the workplace;
- The behavior is based, at least in part, on the employee’s religion; and
- The harassing behavior is so pervasive or severe that it creates an environment that is intimidating and/or abusive.
In most cases, there should be evidence of a pattern of harassing behavior that makes the workplace incredibly uncomfortable for the employee.
The San Jose police officer argues that he has been the victim of a hostile workplace because of religious harassment. Specifically, he explains that other officers in the department have continually made in taunting and abusive comments intended to ostracize and demean him for being Muslim (e.g., “are you wearing a suicide vest?” “El Taliban”).
When Are Employers Liable for a Hostile Work Environment?
The San Jose officer filed his workplace discrimination lawsuit because his reports of harassment fell on deaf ears in the department. In California, the law clearly states that an employer can be held responsible for harassing behavior if they knew (or should have known) about it and failed to take “immediate and appropriate corrective action.”
In fact, the law clearly explains that employers “shall take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring.” If it is true that the San Jose police department knew about the religious harassment, but failed to do anything about it, they may be liable for damages.
San Jose Discrimination Attorneys
Employees in California have the right to be free from discrimination and harassment on the basis of their religion. If employers know, or should know, about conduct that creates a hostile work environment, they can be on the hook for financial damages. If you have been the victim of religious harassment or discrimination in San Jose, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Briski Law Firm to find out how we can help you hold your employer responsible for their unlawful actions.
Our San Jose workplace discrimination attorneys know that being forced to endure the abuse of a hostile work environment can be devastating. We will fight to help you recover the compensation you deserve for your suffering. Call today to schedule a free case evaluation with our skilled legal team.