Arizona Religious Discrimination Law


Religious discrimination is unlawful pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Arizona Civil Rights Act. Religious discrimination occurs when a job applicant or employee is treated unfavorably based on his or her religious beliefs. The law protects individuals who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, as well as any other sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Courts have also held that religious discrimination can occur when someone is treated differently because they are married to or friends with another person who belongs to a particular religion.

As with other forms of employment discrimination, Arizona and federal law prohibit discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, compensation, job assignments, and any other term or condition of employment.

Although religious-based discrimination and harassment can include offensive remarks, employees are sometimes surprised to learn that employers can’t usually be held liable for isolated incidents and/or simple teasing or offhand comments. Harassment is illegal, however, when it becomes so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as being fired or demoted).

In addition, employees cannot be forced to participate in a religious activity as a condition of employment.

Requirement That Employers Provide Reasonable Accommodations

Religious discrimination laws also mandate that employers provide reasonable accommodations for an employee's religious beliefs or practices, unless providing accommodations would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer's business. Such accommodations can include modifications to policies and practices, adjustments to scheduling and job assignments, or modifications to dress or grooming practices.

Employees who require accommodations based on their religion must notify the employer of the need for an accommodation for a religious reason. As in the case of disability accommodations, if the employer reasonably needs more information, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request. Assuming there is no undue hardship, the employer must grant the accommodation.

Religious Accommodations and Undue Hardship

As indicated above, employers do not have to accommodate religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. Accommodations may cause undue hardship if they are excessively costly, compromise safety, decrease efficiency, or infringe on the rights of other employees.

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