Representation for Religious Discrimination & Accommodation in the Federal Workplace

Issues of religious accommodation and discrimination have been arising far more frequently in recent years due to both a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Groff v. DeJoy, 143 S. Ct. 2279 (2023), setting the standard for undue burden in relation to religious accommodation as well as the federal government’s vaccine mandate, which prompted an uptick in requests for religious accommodation.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits federal agencies from engaging in disparate treatment and maintaining policies or practices that result in unjustified disparate impact based on religion.  

Title VII defines “religion” broadly to include “all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief,” not just practices that are mandated or prohibited by a tenet of the individual’s faith.

While traditional religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, are included, the law also protects moral and ethical beliefs which are sincerely held with the strength of religious views. The EEOC has cautioned employers not to “be in the business” of deciding whether a person holds religious beliefs for “proper” reasons, and it is often a matter of individual credibility. 

What to know about Religious Accommodation

Title VII requires federal agencies, once on notice, to reasonably accommodate an employee whose sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance conflicts with a work requirement, unless providing the accommodation would create an undue hardship.

A religious accommodation is an adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to comply with their religious beliefs, such as a change in work schedule, exception from uniform or grooming requirements, or allowance to allow prayer time and space at work. 

The Supreme Court considered whether a religious accommodation, exemption from working Sundays, sought by a U.S. Postal Service employee created an undue hardship. In Groff v. DeJoy, 143 S. Ct. 2279 (2023), the Supreme Court held that “undue hardship is shown when a burden is substantial in the overall context of an employer’s business,” “tak[ing] into account all relevant factors in the case at hand, including the particular accommodations at issue and their practical impact in light of the nature, size and operating cost of an employer.”

This decision means that it will be harder for employers, including federal agencies, to deny religious accommodation going forward, as the standard was raised. 

If you have been denied a request for religious accommodation or exemption, get in touch with our team today to schedule a consultation. 

Understanding Religious Discrimination in the Federal Workplace

Title VII prohibits agencies from discriminating against federal employees because of their religious beliefs or practices. This means that agencies cannot take or not take employment actions, such as hiring decisions, promotions, etc., or based on an employee’s religious beliefs.  

Title VII also prohibits harassment based on religious beliefs and practices, just as it does for other protected classes such as race and gender.  

If you are facing religious discrimination in the workplace, our attorneys can help with:  

  • Legal Guidance: Our attorneys can provide legal advice on the rights and protections afforded to federal employees and help you understand your legal rights regarding religious discrimination in the workplace.
  • Filing Complaints: We can assist in preparing and filing EEO complaints and walking federal employees through the informal and formal complaint processes.
  • Negotiation and Mediation: Our team of federal employment attorneys can engage in negotiations and mediation to resolve the issue at the lowest level, often at the informal EEO complaint stage or at the early stages of the EEOC’s hearing process
  • Representation before the EEOC: Our experienced team can represent you in a religious accommodation or discrimination complaint, advocating for your rights before the EEOC and seeking remedies such as damages, reinstatement, or workplace accommodations.
  • Educating Employers: Our attorneys are dedicated to making sure employers understand and comply with anti-discrimination laws and help implement policies and practices that foster a discrimination-free workplace. 

Religious discrimination in the workplace under the EEOC is prohibited by federal law.  Our team of federal employment attorneys can help.  

What Makes Us Different

From EEO complaints to adverse actions, our experienced federal employment attorneys ensure your entitlement to due process and legal representation every step of the way.

Represent government employees at all federal agencies, nationwide and overseas

Highly-skilled MSPB appeals attorneys with a proven track record

Notable success in EEO complaints and appeals

Frequently Asked Questions

Federal employees are protected from discrimination based on sex, gender, color, race, national origin, religion, age, and disability, and have the right to file an EEO complaint against their agency should they face discrimination. Federal employees also have the right to due process before being subjected to an adverse action and have an option to appeal an adverse action to the MSPB. Federal employees are also protected from whistleblower retaliation under the law.   

Yes, federal employees can sue for discrimination, but first you must exhaust administrative remedies, which includes filing a formal complaint with your agency and letting at least 180 days pass. In many instances, federal employees elect to pursue their EEO complaints through the EEOC’s hearing process instead of filing a civil action. 

Federal employees must initiate contact with an EEO Counselor within 45 days of any act of discrimination to indicate intent to file an informal EEO complaint. If the EEO complaint is still unresolved after the informal complaint stage, you will be issued a Notice of Right to File a formal complaint, which will permit you 15 days to do so.  

Federal employees do not have the right to sue for wrongful termination the way private sector employees do, but most federal employees have the right to appeal a removal to the MSPB, which will adjudicate whether the Agency can sustain any charges raised against you and determine whether the agency’s penalty against you was reasonable.

Yes, most federal employees can file a complaint against their agency with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) if they are facing whistleblower retaliation. If OSC does not accept your complaint for investigation and prosecution, OSC will issue you an Individual Right of Action (IRA) notice giving you the right to pursue corrective action at the MSPB. Federal employees do not have the right to sue in court under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Speak with our Religious Discrimination Attorneys today