Sunday, July 26, 2009

Your God or Your Job

Religion in the workplace has been a controversial issue for a long time. Resolving the angst between freedom of speech and separation of church and state is easier said than done. According to the EEOC, religion-based charges have increased approximately 50% since 1997 and have skyrocketed since the devastation of 9/11. In 2008, EEOC received 3,273 charges of religious discrimination. has a great article titled "Guidelines on Religious Freedom and Religious Expression in the Workplace." I could not locate an author's name but the link to the article is:

As an example, when Denver Nuggets' basketball star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem before NBA games because of his Islamic beliefs, the public finally got a glimpse of what employment attorneys have known for some time: Religion in the work place is a very sticky issue.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers from hiring or firing employees because of their religious beliefs. Title VII also requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless to do so would create an undue hardship upon the employer.

In one case, a police officer alleged his First Amendment rights were violated when he was forced to remove a religious pin on his uniform; in another, employees asserted they had the right to read their Bible silently as a way to protest a mandatory training seminar on “Gays and Lesbians in the Workplace.” To work towards a better set of guidelines for employees and employers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on July 22, 2008, approved a new 94-page compliance manual on religious discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

As an additional primer for dealing with religion in the workplace, I would recommend also reading "Making Room for Faith: Handling Religious Expression at the Office" by Larry Stevens. That article can be found at:

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