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Fired For Wearing A Cross

Cecilia Hanson, a former employee of a maternity clothes specialty store, recently filed suit against Destination Maternity Corporation, claiming religious discrimination. Hanson alleges that she began working at the Gretna, Louisiana store approximately two years ago. After one year, the store manager, Tracy Jefferson, directed Hanson to stop wearing her cross in the store. Jefferson also allegedly began to pepper Hanson with sarcastic comments about attending church. After Hanson submitted a complaint to the company’s human resources department, Jefferson fired her. 

Religious discrimination is illegal

Both Ohio and federal law make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against individuals when hiring and firing as well as in the work environment because of their religion. In addition, employers may not take an adverse employment action against an employee who files a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Reasonable accommodation v. undue hardship

Under employment discrimination law, employers must make a reasonable accommodation to an employee or prospective employee’s religious practices. Religious accommodations often include flexible scheduling, swapping assignments or even lateral transfers. They can also involve allowing certain dress or grooming practices that are based on religious values.

If accommodating an employee’s religious practices will cause undue hardship, then the employer may refuse to do so. Examples of undue hardship include:

  • Cost
  • Risks to workplace safety
  • Significant decreases in workplace efficiency
  • Unfair infringement upon the rights of other employees
  • Disproportionate shifts of the work burden to others

In a religious discrimination lawsuit, a plaintiff may recover lost wages, compensatory damages, attorney fees and, when special circumstances warrant, punitive damages.

Making a claim for religious discrimination in employment involves gathering evidence to show differential treatment and, in some instances, an employer’s failure to accommodate an employee’s religious practices. Work with a seasoned Ohio employment law attorney.

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