and hard work..."
- L.D., Portland.
Did you know why civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, the day he was killed? He was there to support African American garbage workers who carried signs with the slogan, “I Am A Man”. The workers were on strike to protest unsafe conditions, abusive white supervisors, and low wages. More than fifty years later, the struggle for racial justice in the workplace is still ongoing.
Race discrimination occurs when an employer treats someone (an applicant or employee) differently and less favorably because of race. For example, if someone refuses to hire a job applicant because he or she is of a particular race or demotes someone because he or she is believed to be of a particular race, these are forms of prohibited race discrimination. Segregation by race is also illegal.
The Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibits all employers in Vermont from engaging in race discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibit race discrimination in employment but it only applies to employers with 15 and more employees.
National origin discrimination occurs when an employer treats applicants or employees differently and less favorably because they are from a particular country or part of the world, because of ethnicity or accent, or because they appear to be of a certain ethnic background, even if they are not. For example, an employer may not adopt an English-only rule for a discriminatory reason, such as to exclude all Hispanics from its workforce. It would also be illegal, for example, for an employer to pay a worker less because they immigrated from another country.
Discrimination against an employee based on religion is unlawful in Vermont under both state and federal laws. Religious discrimination occurs when an employer treats a job applicant or employee unfavorably due to his or her sincerely held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs. Members of established religious groups are protected. So are atheists and agnostics. So are Wiccans. It is illegal to discriminate regarding any aspect of employment including hiring, compensation, promotions, training, benefits, other terms and conditions of employment, and termination.
Employers are required to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of an employee except when an accommodation would place more than a minimal burden on the employer’s business operations. For example, if an employee asks not to be scheduled to work on the employee’s day of worship, the employer should grant that request if there are other employees available to work those shifts.
An employee who has been subjected to discrimination, unreasonably denied an accommodation, or has been harassed due to their religious beliefs may have grounds to file a lawsuit for damages.
Racial, ethnic, and religious harassment that creates a hostile work environment is a form of discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment. This type of harassment can take many forms. Owners, supervisors, managers, other employees, and in some cases third parties may say or do things that create a hostile work environment such as:
Not all harassment is illegal. Minor teasing and isolated incidents may not be considered serious enough by a court or jury to violate the law. Racial, national origin, and religious harassment is illegal when it is so severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of employment for the victim, or creates an abusive working environment.
The Vermont Employee Rights Group can help you achieve justice if you have been subjected to race, national origin, or religious discrimination or harassment. Call us at 833.365.2929 or fill out this online form for an initial consultation.