Can your manager mention your ‘faith’ and ‘belief system’ while he’s reprimanding you? At what point does this become religious discrimination?

UPDATED: Jun 14, 2019

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Can your manager mention your ‘faith’ and ‘belief system’ while he’s reprimanding you? At what point does this become religious discrimination?

My manager was discussing an incident with me in his office that happened the
prior week. During this discussion, he got heated and was raising his voice, and
then stated ‘I’m surprised someone of your belief system and faith would be
acting this way’. Nevertheless, this did not sit right with me considering he has
no idea of what my belief system is. Is this borderline discrimination?

Asked on June 14, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

"Borderline discrimination" is an excellent way to describe this: while the manager does not directly link any discipine, critique, or other action to your religion, he does reference "your belief system." While that does not, by itself, prove that he discriminated against you on the basis of your faith, it creates at least a rebuttable presumption--which he would have to provide evidence to rebut--that his perception of and reaction to your perceived faith played a role in what he did and said. (Even if he does not in fact know your belief system, it is discrimination if he acted in response to your perceived system or the faith, creed, etc. he believes that you follow--i.e. "apparent" discrimination is legally as much discrimination as actual discrimination against your actual faith.)
If you suffer adverse consequences (demotion, suspension, termination, etc.) for this, contact the federal EEOC and let them look into it; if you do not suffer adverse consequences, as a practical matter, there is no point in taking action.

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