What are some examples of when an employer could be held liable for religious harassment in the workplace?
Minneapolis employment and labor law attorney, Mary Krakow, discusses how employers might be held liable for harassment.
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Well, religious harassment in the workplace is prohibited by both federal and state antidiscrimination laws. The first thing employers should do so that they don’t have allegations of religious harassment is be sure that they have a very well written anti-harassment policy that they’ve published to employees so employees know what kinds of conduct are not acceptable and if the conduct is occurring in the workplace they know to whom they can complain. Because the employer’s job is both to prevent the harassment in the first place but if it happens, if conduct happens that could be harassment the employer has a legal obligation to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.
So what kinds of things should the employer be on the lookout for to prohibit and to stop? It would be any kind of words, it can be joke telling, it could be teasing, they could be verbal, they could be in writing via e-mail that are negative or denigrate or belittle a person because of their religious beliefs or their religious practices. Or these days even a religious dress that’s required by someone’s religious beliefs. And when an employer learns of any kind of alleged harassment, any kind of conduct that might be prohibited the employer should take prompt and appropriate corrective action to stop it. Now will it be harassment? Well, that’s a complicated definition under law, which it requires both sever conduct and frequent conduct that creates a hostile or offensive work environment. But that isn’t the only thing the employer should be careful of they want to prohibit any kind of inappropriate conduct between employees, manager to employee, customer to employee that is belittling, degrading toward an employee because of their religious beliefs, practices, or as I said, could be also dress.