Many employers attempt to avoid discrimination by making neutral policies that apply to everyone. This sounds like it would work and that they wouldn’t run into any negative ramifications. If everyone has to follow the rules, then the rules are fair – or, at least, that’s the thought behind these policies.
However, the EEOC notes that even these neutral policies can be forms of discrimination. This issue arises when there are certain people within the business who are impacted to a much greater extent than their co-workers.
How could this happen?
For instance, imagine that an employer does not want employees to pray on the job. They say that no one is allowed to pray. They claim that this isn’t religious discrimination because it’s applying equally to people of all religious persuasions.
However, it’s very clear that this rule does not impact atheists at all. Additionally, what if you are part of a religion where praying on a set schedule is very important? Your co-workers, even if they are religious, may not feel the need to pray at work, but you do. Once again, this rule doesn’t really impact them, and it’s easy to follow. But it drastically impacts you and infringes on your rights to practice your religious beliefs. This is still discrimination, even though you haven’t been singled out.
In fact, some employers do this in an effort to disguise discrimination. Your employer may only have been trying to stop you from praying to begin with, but they made the rule appear to be wider in scope. Your rights could still have been violated and you need to know what options you have.