The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has a mission statement stating the agency is "responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit."
Many employers with staff numbers greater than 15-20 people are subject to oversight by the rules established by the EEOC, and this spans beyond government agencies or those entities engaged in unions. That is, if you are an employer with at least 15 employees, the rules/guidelines of the EEOC are part of the portfolio you should give notable attention.
What about those entities that have a religious underpinning, and want to curtail business on Sundays? This alone is not explicitly banned as outlined in an article by the Orlando Sentinel about those companies that choose to not be open on Sundays for religious reasons. However, the EEOC pays attention to whether there is not enough separation of Church and State related to employment discrimination.
Dynamic Medical Services Case
Take the case of Dynamic Medical Services, Inc. This Miami company provides medical and chiropractic services, but in early in May, it was charged having too great an emphasis on workplace time spend on religious activities. The EEOC filed charges recently stating that Dynamic Medical Services, Inc. was one such example requiring employees to: "spend at least half their work days in courses that involved Scientology religious practices, such as screaming at ashtrays or staring at someone for eight hours without moving" as part of their condition for employment. Claimants cited both a hostile work force and disparate treatment of employees, which was enough to trigger action by the EEOC.
While this case is far from resolved, it is important to understand the role of the EEOC in potential religious discrimination cases. The EEOC breaks the range of issues down into more than a half dozen categories including: work situations, harassment, segregation, reasonable accommodation, dress and grooming policies, undue hardship, and general employment policies/practices.
There are time limits to file employment discrimination cases - most of them tied to a 180-day clock, although EEOC discrimination claims may depend on the type of discrimination. The types of damages that can be pursued in such an employment discrimination case may include compensatory (money for the victim) or punitive (consequences intended to rehabilitate the employer to avoid problems in the future) damages. This may vary depending on the type of EEOC complaint and the staff size of the employer in question.
Religious discrimination claims are not straight-forward and you are best off consulting with our employment lawyer to determine what path you could pursue with a religious discrimination complaint against an employer.
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