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Proving glass ceiling discrimination

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Glass ceiling discrimination defined

Eric Bachman


Eric Bachman is a Principal with Zuckerman Law, where he is the Chair of the discrimination and retaliation practices.  Bachman has served in senior positions at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. His wins include a $100 million settlement in a Title VII employment discrimination class action, a $1.3 million jury verdict in an age discrimination case (tried with co-counsel), a record-setting Whistleblower Protection Act settlement at OSC, and a $16 million class action settlement against a major grocery chain.

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Civil Rights Laws Prohibit Religious Discrimination

The top-rated discrimination lawyers at Zuckerman Law are deeply committed to zealously advocating on behalf of victims of religious discrimination. It is illegal and contrary to bedrock American values for an employer to discriminate against an applicant, employee, or former employee based upon the individual’s religious beliefs. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, promote, fire, etc. a person because of their religion.  This applies to established religions such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity, as well as less common religions so long as the person’s religious, moral, or ethical belief is held sincerely. U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 firm in Litigation – Labor and Employment in the Washington DC metropolitan area.  Contact us today to find out how we can help you. To schedule a preliminary consultation about religious discrimination in the workplace, call us at 202-769-1681, or click here. Click here to see our videos answering frequently asked questions about discrimination and retaliation.          best maryland employment lawyers

Harassment/Hostile Work Environment Religious Discrimination Cases

Employers cannot allow a hostile work environment based on religious discrimination to fester.  Although sporadic teasing or unpleasant remarks do not constitute a hostile work environment, if the employee is subjected to unwelcome statements or conduct based on their religion that become severe or pervasive, then the employer may be liable for this harassment.

Reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs

Also, if a conflict exists between the employee’s sincerely held belief and the job requirements, the employer may be required to accommodate the employee’s religious beliefs.  After the employee notifies the employer about the conflict and requests an accommodation, the employee and the employer should discuss possible accommodations.  If the modification creates an undue hardship for the employer, then it need not be granted.  Absent an undue hardship, however, the employer should provide a reasonable accommodation that eliminates the conflict between the religious belief and the work responsibility. Assuming no undue hardship exists, these are examples of potential accommodations:
  • Changing shift/break schedules to allow for prayer time;
  • Allowing an employee to wear a face mask rather than shave his beard as otherwise required by the company policy; and/or
  • Switching job tasks that conflict with the religious beliefs.
In a December 2019 amicus curiae brief in Patterson v. Walgreens, the Solicitor General advocated the following standard to assess undue hardship:

Under those ordinary meanings, an employer’s “accommodation” of an employee’s religious practice must be suitable to meet the employee’s religious needs— that is, it must actually allow the employee to engage in the religious practice without adverse employment consequences. That is possible only if it eliminates the con- flict between the employee’s religious practice and work. . . Instead, the statute should be read to require the employer to reasonably accommodate the employee’s religious practice to the extent that it can without suffering an undue hardship. If the employer demonstrates that every complete accommodation would result in an undue hardship, it still must offer what might be called a “partial” accommodation that would not result in undue hardship. Cf. Estate of Thornton v. Caldor, Inc., 472 U.S. 703, 712 (1985) (O’Connor, J., concurring) (“Title VII calls for reasonable rather than absolute accommodation.”).

Interplay Between Religious and National Origin Discrimination

Discrimination based on religion is often associated with national origin, race, and color discrimination as well.  If a particular religion is linked to a specific country/region, then the employee may be subjected to both religious and national origin discrimination (for example, a Muslim employee from Yemen). If an employee requests a religious accommodation, this is generally viewed as protected activity, which means the employer may not then retaliate against the employee because of their request.

What to do if you experience religious discrimination

If you believe your employer subjected you to religious discrimination, you should consider the following options:
  • File a written complaint and follow your company’s policy for submitting internal complaints;
  • You may also want to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Their website has helpful information on how to file the complaint and, although you cannot file the complaint online, you can file in person, by telephone, or by mail.  Depending on where you live, your complaint must be filed within 180 or 300 days of the discriminatory act.  If you have any questions about whether the EEOC is the right place to file, use their online assessment center, which will help you decide if the EEOC is the correct agency,
  • Talk about your legal options with an experienced employment law attorney. Given time bars that apply to discrimination claims, it is vital to get the right advice as early as possible in your case.

Resources about religious discrimination in employment

Muslim employee who was allegedly told to remove that “rag” from her head gets new day in court EEOC Guidance on religious discrimination EEOC FAQs for Middle Eastern employees DOJ/Civil Rights Division Religion Roundtable periodical

Religious Discrimination Lawyers Serving Employees in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC

Hiring a proven and effective advocate is critical to obtaining the maximum recovery in a religious discrimination case.  Eric Bachman, Chair of the Firm’s Discrimination Practice, has substantial experience litigating precedent-setting individual and class action discrimination cases.   His wins include a $100 million settlement in a disparate impact Title VII class action and a $16 million class action settlement against a major grocery chain.  Having served as Special Litigation Counsel in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as lead or co-counsel in numerous jury trials, Bachman is trial-tested and ready to fight for you to obtain the relief that you deserve. Bachman writes frequently on employment discrimination issues at the Glass Ceiling Discrimination Blog. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with a religious discrimination case.  To schedule a preliminary consultation, click here or call us at (202) 769-1681.
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Maryland Virginia Washington DC Employment Lawyers

Zuckerman Law represents Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia executives and senior professionals in negotiating severance agreements, employment agreements, non-compete agreements, non-disclosure agreements and other contracts related to employment.

When an employer presents you with a severance agreement, you should assume that the agreement protects the employer’s interests, not your interests. Therefore, it can be useful to get advice on the scope of the restrictions that you would agree to abide by under the agreement, and on whether you are waiving a valuable claim against your former employer.

Click here to read testimonials from CEOs, CFOs, and other senior professionals that we have represented.  To schedule a consultation, call us at 202-262-8959, or click here.

Zuckerman Law can also assist you to determine whether the termination of your employment gives rise to legal claims.  If your former employer terminated you for an unlawful reason, you should not waive your right to bring a claim, including a potential claim of wrongful termination, discrimination, or retaliation.

Employee Rights in Severance Agreements

Some severance agreements contain unlawful provisions that interfere with employee’s rights under anti-discrimination, anti-retaliation, and whistleblower protection laws.  Before entering into a severance agreement, consult with an experienced attorney to evaluate whether your former employer is violating your rights.   Examples of improper or unlawful provisions in severance agreements include:

  • a waiver of a claim that would arise or accrue subsequent to the effective date of the agreement.
  • a waiver of the right to file a charge of discrimination or retaliation.
  • a waiver of vested right under a benefit or pension plan.
  • a waiver of the right to testify, assist, or cooperate in an investigation of a charge of discrimination or retaliation.
  • an agreement not to report a violation of law or regulation to law enforcement or regulatory agencies.

Entering into a severance agreement can result in an employee waiving or relinquishing valuable rights and agreeing to restrictions on future employment.  Therefore, it is critical to get experienced counsel to review a severance agreement and negotiate favorable terms for the employee.

Basics of executive compensation

When joining or exiting a company, executives face unique challenges to ensure their rights are protected given the variety of compensation they receive beyond a salary.

Knowing precisely what your compensation consists of and how to maximize its value during negotiations is essential.

Below is a high-level review of the key concepts, and more detail will be provided on each subject in future posts.

Base salary

An executive’s base salary is the most straight-forward type of compensation.  It is usually characterized as an annual salary and often paid in the same intervals as other salaried employees (for example, monthly or bi-weekly).

Salaries among executives vary greatly based in part on the industry and potential value of the other forms of compensation offered.

Bonuses (short-term incentives)

Many different types of bonuses exist, including a signing bonus and different forms of annual incentives.  Companies use bonuses to incentivize executives to achieve the company’s short-term business goals.  The bonus itself is commonly paid as a percentage of the base salary.

Various targets are usually set to encourage superior performance and may include criteria like:  development of a new product; achieving a certain level of sales; and other performance goals within the executive’s division or department.

Long-term incentives

Long-term incentives routinely comprise the biggest portion of an executive’s compensation.  Companies offer long-term incentives to retain talent and encourage executives to realize the company’s strategic goals and objectives.

Long-term incentives are normally granted as some form of equity compensation, such as:

  • stock options (the executive can buy or sell the company’s stock at an agreed (exercise) price within a set period of time)
  • restricted stock shares/units (an award of stock with restrictions usually contingent upon working for the company a particular length of time)
  • performance shares/units (an award of stock with restrictions often related to achieving company performance goals)

Typically, the equity grants will vest over a specific period of time, essentially making the executive an investor in the company’s performance. The vesting period varies by company but usually covers a period of 3 to 5 years. Long-term incentives that have not vested are typically forfeited once the executive departs the company.

Termination issues

The manner in which a company characterizes an executive’s termination of employment is extremely important.  For example, if the employer terminates the executive for “cause,” then s/he will often lose most rights to unvested long-term incentives and other future compensation.  If the executive resigns with “good reason” or is terminated without case, however, then the executive is routinely able to secure significant severance benefits.

Thus, how an employment agreement defines a termination for “cause” and a resignation with “good reason” is vital to know if considering a departure.  And when negotiating an employment agreement, it is essential to define this terms to give the executive adequate protection.

Before signing a severance agreement, consult with an experienced Severance Agreement Lawyer.  Call 202-262-8959 or click here to schedule a consultation.

Maryland Virginia Washington DC Discrimination Lawyers


If you have suffered discrimination or retaliation for reporting discrimination, we might be able to help you seek compensation for your losses.  We have experience representing clients under a wide range of federal and state anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws, including in claims of:

Click here to see our videos answering frequently asked questions about discrimination and retaliation.