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Religious discrimination

what is religious discrimination?


A variety of laws - local, state and federal - protect a person from religious discrimination in the workplace.

At the federal level Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is intented to prevent or at least remedy religious discrimination. Title VII covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments.

As summarized by the EEOC, Title VII is inteded to protect workers in the following manner:


  • Employers may not treat employees or applicants more or less favorably because of their religious beliefs or practices - except to the extent a religious accommodation is warranted. For example, an employer may not refuse to hire individuals of a certain religion, may not impose stricter promotion requirements for persons of a certain religion, and may not impose more or different work requirements on an employee because of that employee's religious beliefs or practices.
  • Employees cannot be forced to participate -- or not participate -- in a religious activity as a condition of employment.
  • Employers must reasonably accommodate employees' sincerely held religious practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his religion. An employer might accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices by allowing: flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments and lateral transfers, modification of grooming requirements and other workplace practices, policies and/or procedures.
  • An employer is not required to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs and practices if doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employers' legitimate business interests. An employer can show undue hardship if accommodating an employee's religious practices requires more than ordinary administrative costs, diminishes efficiency in other jobs, infringes on other employees' job rights or benefits, impairs workplace safety, causes co-workers to carry the accommodated employee's share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work, or if the proposed accommodation conflicts with another law or regulation.
  • Employers must permit employees to engage in religious expression, unless the religious expression would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Generally, an employer may not place more restrictions on religious expression than on other forms of expression that have a comparable effect on workplace efficiency.
  • Employers must take steps to prevent religious harassment of their employees. An employer can reduce the chance that employees will engage unlawful religious harassment by implementing an anti-harassment policy and having an effective procedure for reporting, investigating and correcting harassing conduct.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on religion or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.


where to file

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission handles claims on the federal level. They enforce federal anti-discrimination laws including laws against sexual harassment. The claim must be filed within 300 days of the occurence.

The EEOC can be contacted at:

U.S. Equal Employment Oppor. Comm'n Chicago District Office

500 W. Madison,
Suite 2800
Chicago, IL 60611-2511
(312) 353-2713; 2714
(312) 353-2421 (TDD)
(312) 353-7355 (Fax)

The State of Illinois uses both the Illinois Department of Human Rights and Illinois Human Rights Commission to handle claims under the Illnois Human Rights Act. Claims must be filed within 180 days of the occurence.

A charge is filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and an agent is assigned to investigate the claim. If the claim is found to have merit a charge is filed with the Illinois Human Rights Commission. An individual has a right to file a charge with the Illinois Human Rights Commission even if the IDHR does not find their claim to have merit.

The Human Rights Commission assigns an administrative judge to the case and a public hearing is held to determine the merits of the claim.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights can be contacted at:

Illinois Department of Human Rights
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph
Suite 10-100
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 814-6200
(312) 263-1579 (TDD)
(312) 814-1541 (Fax)

If you live in Cook County you can file a charge with the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. The Commission on Human Rights is charged with applying the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance.

The Commission on Human Rights can be contacted at:

Cook County Commission on Human Rights
69 W. Washington St.
Suite 2900
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 603-1100
(312) 603-1101 (TDD)
(312) 603-9988 (FAX)

The city of Chicago Commission on Human Relations hears complaints filed by plaintiffs and can award monetary damages to the successful plaintiff.

Filing a charge with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations is free and no lawyer is required to pursue a case. Though it is generally advisable to hire a lawyer to represent you as the defendant usually will and the legal arguments will be more familiar to a lawyer.

The Commission on Human Relations can be contacted at:

Chicago Commission on Human Relations
740 N. Sedgwick,
Third Floor
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 744-4111
(312) 744-1088 (TDD)
(312) 744-1081 (FAX)



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Discrimination cases are complicated and timelines for filing may be short. Do not hesistate to contact our office if you think you have been a victim of harassment.