A policy that says “Muslims are not to be promoted” is a pretty clear example of religious discrimination, but even the worst employer knows that would be too obvious. Most discrimination occurs in a less obvious way, or one under which an employer may try to claim that any negative consequences were unintentional and not likely to repeat. This, we know is also untrue.

A lawsuit involving religious discrimination tackles just this intricate issue. The lawsuit involves a group of current and former military chaplains who said that the promotional policy of the navy left open room for discrimination again non-liturgical Protestant clergy members and did in fact have that result. It wasn’t that there was a direct policy against promoting the group, but that the voting structure made direct discrimination more than possible.

The structure was set up so that voting for the promotion of the clergy members could be done in secret and one board member could veto a promotion. The real problem with this structure is that the chief of chaplains and his deputy are allowed to serve on the promotional board. Non-liturgical Protestant clergy members such as Baptists and Evangelicals are often less accepted by Christian sects that follow more standardized rituals.

The U.S. Navy contested the lawsuit claiming that the policies did not directly authorize discrimination. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently ruled that the claims made by the chaplains were “sufficiently non-speculative to support standing.” This means that the evidence presented at this point showed that there was a legitimate claim in order to move forward with trial. The court acknowledged that those who may have personal biases are much more likely to vote based on them when voting can be done with anonymity.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Court Reinstates Navy Chaplain Discrimination Lawsuit,” Chad Bray, Nov. 2, 2012

Discrimination is not always obvious but can be hidden in policies — even unintentionally. If you have been denied advancement due to your religious beliefs, you may have a claim for discrimination.