All Circumstances Must Be Looked At Together When Determining Whether There Was A Hostile Work Environment Based On Religious Discrimination
Under Title VII, five elements must be proven to win a claim based on a hostile work environment due to religious discrimination. Abramson v. William Paterson College of New Jersey, 260 F. 3d 265 (3d Cir. 2001). The plaintiff must show, (1) they suffered intentional discrimination because of religion; (2) the discrimination was pervasive and regular; (3) the discrimination detrimentally affected them; (4) the discrimination would detrimentally affect a reasonable person of the same religion in that position; and (5) the existence of respondent superior liability. Id. at 276-77.
In Abramson, plaintiff was a professor who claimed discrimination and retaliation based on her religion – being an Orthodox Jew. Id. at 269-77. The Third Circuit held that to prove intentional discrimination, no direct proof of the harasser’s intent is needed, mostly because animus is difficult to conclusively prove. Id. at 278. Abramson provided enough proof because the incidents that lead to her termination had to do with her insistence that she could not work during Jewish holidays or on holy days. Id. at 279. Additionally, because Abramson needed to miss work because of Jewish holidays, her supervisors began to treat her negatively, including yelling about her “complaining”, and scheduling events on Jewish holy days purposefully so Abramson had to choose between work and her religion. Id. at 272. For each of these prongs, the Third Circuit reiterated that all of the circumstances must be looked at together and not as individual incidents. Id. at 279-80; see also, Durham Life Ins. Co. v. Evans, 166 F.3d 139, 155 (3d Cir.1999).