Generally speaking, federal law prohibits any employer from discriminating against workers based on their race, gender, nationality and certain other factors, including religion. However, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has an important exemption for employers that are religious organizations.
Basically, employers can use standards from their religion to decide which employees to hire and advance or, on the other hand, discipline or terminate.
On a practical level, this means that a religious organization can insist that employees follow a certain moral code or profess certain views about the world.
Not a free pass
This exemption means that churches and related organizations have the ability to ensure their employees do not undermine their organization’s values. However, it is not a free pass to do whatever the organization wants.
For one, these exemptions are codified in federal law. Oregon has its own employment laws which may apply differently to the same circumstances.
Additionally, the law does not allow all discrimination so long as an employer is religious. The employer will have to show how its rules, even if they are discriminatory, are upholding the religion’s values. Rules and decisions that are just discriminatory remain illegal.
A good example might be a Christian church that sincerely believes in a male-only clergy.
The church would be allowed to ordain whom it wants, but the church could still get sued for sexual harassment by, say, a female employee.
Religious organizations face a number of employment law challenges
Religious organizations have some protection so they can uphold their beliefs. In practice, though, these protections can be hard to apply to a specific set of circumstances.
Furthermore, in most other respects, churches and religious organizations have to deal with the same complicated and messy employment law issues as other businesses.
Having quality legal advice is a good way for religious organizations in the Sherwood area to navigate through these often difficult legal issues.