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EEOC Spreads Bias Message to Youth

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is encouraging younger workers to file religious discrimination complaints.

On July 22 the agency issued a one-page fact sheet aimed at educating younger workers about their rights under federal law regarding religious discrimination, harassment and accommodations.

EEOC in particular is seeking complaints from young workers who are members of the “gig” economy – temporary staffers and independent contractors – because that workforce tends to skew younger and regulators consider it inherently exploitative.

“Gig employers, they’re looking at you,” declares Richard Meneghell, an attorney with the law firm of Fisher Phillips.

The three examples EEOC includes in the tip sheet describe young workers at a coffee shop, a grocery store and a retail clothing store, each facing workplace problems due to their religion.

New religious discrimination basics include:

  • Those who don’t believe in religion, as well, who are forced to attend prayer meetings, for example.
  • Also protected are newer and less common religions like Rastafarianism.
  • Employers need to provide workplace changes (accommodations) if they would cause little to no burden on the business – such as shifting schedules, or altering dress codes.

It is expected that EEOC soon will request more detailed information from those filing religious discrimination claims to gather additional statistical data. Also, each time a worker files a claim, the agency will ask what religion they practice.

The number of religious discrimination charges filed have doubled over the past two decades, Meneghell notes, from 1,709 such complaints filed in 1997, about 2% of the total that year, to 3,502 in 2015, comprising about 4% of the total number of claims.

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