This page discusses the workplace religious discrimination laws in California. This will help you decide if you need to contact an employment lawyer. Though this page has information on religious discrimination laws in CA, it is not complete and should not be a substitute for speaking with a lawyer. We strongly suggest you contact an employment lawyer if you think that you were terminated due to your religious beliefs.
This page covers the following subjects:
- The basics of CA’s religious discrimination law
- Exemptions to religious discrimination law
- What are reasonable accommodations for religious preferences?
- What type of awards are available in a religious discrimination lawsuit?
- Standard verdicts and settlements in religious discrimination cases
- Religious Discrimination statute of limitations
- How much will a religious discrimination lawyer cost?
- Consulting and hiring a religious discrimination lawyer
This vide was made by a friend of Ms. Freeze & Mr. Odell. It explains the basics of CA’s religious discrimination laws.
Religious Discrimination Basics
Freedom of religion is one of the basic rights we enjoy in this country and CA takes it seriously. Corporations are prohibited from refusing to hire or terminating a person based on their religious beliefs (or lack thereof if atheist). This law is known as the California Fair Employment & Housing Act (“FEHA”) § 12940(a).
California employees are provided greater protections than the federal law, Title VII. In CA, you do not need to receive a unanimous verdict from the jury as is needed in federal court and the FEHA does not put a cap on maximum damages.
Reasonable Accommodations for Religious Preferences
Sometimes an employees religious beliefs interferes with a job requirement. For example, working on the sabbath is prohibited by some religions. CA’s religious discrimination laws force employer’s to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who have religious beliefs. After the employee informs the employer of the religious belief and restriction, the employer has a duty to exploring any available reasonable accommodations for that worker. Religious accommodations, generally, are accepted when:
- the employer keeps the employee in their current position, but changes the working condition
- by letting the employee transfer to another comparable job in which such conflicts with their religion are less likely to arise.
- Excusing the person from those duties that conflict with their beliefs
- Allowing those duties to be performed at another time or by another person
So under the sabbath or Sunday restriction example, the accommodation might be that the employer agrees not to schedule the religious employee on Sunday, but lets them work on Saturday instead. It falls on the employer to show that steps were taken to accommodate the employee’s beliefs in order to avoid a religious discrimination lawsuit.
Exemptions for Religious Entities
FEHA protections, apply to most employees in California. But if you work for a religious institution or a non-profit, FEHA’s protections probably don’t apply to you. Non-profit religious associations and corporations are not considered an “employer” with regards to FEHA. This means, for example, a university associated with a Christian church may refuse employment to a Buddhist or Muslim. Religious institutions that run health care facilities that are open to the public, however, are not allowed to discriminate against employees who do not perform religious duties.
What Can You Recover in a Religious Discrimination Lawsuit?
If you win your case, you can recover income that you would have earned had you not been terminated due to your religious beliefs (“lost income”). For instance, if your salary was $85,000, but then you were terminated due to your religious beliefs, and could not find employment for a year despite your efforts, you may recover $85,000.
Secondly, you may recover for any pain and suffering that has been caused by the discrimination of your strongly held religious beliefs. Damages for pain and suffering include recovering for stress, depression, uncertainty, and mental suffering. In these cases, the law attempts to provide for both past and future emotional distress.
Thirdly, a religious discrimination case permits the recovery of attorney’s fees. Many religious discrimination claims have small lost income and pain and suffering damages, so California created an attorney fee provision to incentivize labor and employment lawyers to take religious discrimination cases.
Finally, you may be able to recover punitive damages if your attorney proves that the corporation participated in deplorable behavior. To be awarded punitive damages, the plaintiff must prove that the corporation acted with malice, fraud, or oppression. Punitive damages are awarded to serve as a deterrent to corporations from engaging in such behavior and, thus, are extremely rare.
Typical Verdicts and Settlements in Religious Discrimination Cases
Most religious discrimination cases do not go to trial. Most settle. Settlements are subject to confidentiality provisions which means that these is very little, if any, data to calculate an average from. From what we have experienced, the most religious discrimination cases settle for under $50,000. But every case is vastly different even when they have similar facts! You should not anticipate to earn a certain amount from your case.
Applicable Statute of Limitations
Usually, you have a year from being terminated to procure a right-to-sue letter from the Department of Fair Employment & Housing. Your attorney will usually take care of this for you, but if you have taken the initiative and already obtained one be sure to tell your attorney. You have one year from the date you acquired this letter to file your case.
But be careful! Public entities have a different statute of limitations than private corporations. The deadline may be as short as six months! Because these can vary so much, we recommend that you contact an employment attorney as soon as possible. Anyone can receive a free consultation by contacting our office.
How Much Does a Religious Discrimination Lawyer Cost?
Religious discrimination lawyers make their money on a contingency fee basis. The lawyer is paid only if you are awarded damages by the judge or jury. Your lawyer will agree with you on a percentage prior to taking your case and this will come out of the awarded amount. None of your attorney’s fees will come directly out of your pocket. Additionally, the lawyer will front all of the costs of the case for you, and recover those costs from the settlement or verdict awarded.
Religious Discrimination Lawyer – Free Consultation
If you think you have a religious discrimination case against your former employer, call a Los Angeles employment lawyer. Consultations are free and there is no obligation by calling.
 Cal. Gov. Code § 12926(d)
 Cal. Gov. Code § 12926.2(c)
 Cal. Gov. Code § 12926(u)