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How does state law prevent workplace religious discrimination?

November 09, 2015

New Jersey is a richly-diverse state, with people of just about every race, ethnicity and religion. It’s illegal for employers to discriminate against people based on their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) or that of any person with whom they associate. This applies to hiring and firing decisions and any conditions and terms of employment.

Specifically, employers cannot discriminate against people because they:

— Don’t have a religious belief

— Have a specific religious belief or place of worship

— Hold sincere ethical or moral beliefs that are as strong as traditional religious belief. This does not include social or political views, such as those held by a Ku Klux Klan member.

— Are associated with someone (such as a spouse) with a particular religious belief

Because the law protects those with no religious beliefs, employers (with the exception of religious organizations) can be prohibited from allowing religious materials to be handed out in the workplace. They can also be prohibited from requiring people to belong to a specific religion to be employed.

Businesses are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious beliefs. This includes allowing employees to do things like wear religious garb, maintain facial hair if their faith requires it or take time off of work to participate in religious holidays and other practices if these things don’t significantly impact the business’s ability to function.

Our state laws also address workplace harassment. Businesses can be held liable if customers, colleagues, vendors or supervisors harass employees because of their religious beliefs.

All New Jersey employees should be allowed to go to work and support themselves and their families without being harassed or have their job jeopardized because of their religion or the fact that they have no religion. Those who are may choose to seek legal guidance to find out what their options are.

Source: New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety, Religious Discrimination – Your Rights,” accessed Nov. 09, 2015

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