Religion and the Work Place: Avoiding Discrimination While On the Clock


The population of North America has grown to be very diverse, and with diversity comes a need for cultural and religious awareness. Organizations and institutions that are promoting diversity from within should be making themselves familiar with the best practices to keep from potentially discriminating against someone due to their beliefs.

Employees and religion isn’t a topic that should get taken lightly, and it states in the Civil Rights Act that employers can’t discriminate against current or potential employees due to their religious belief. Segregation also isn’t allowed. Consider some of these tips when introducing a more multicultural environment to the business.

Zero Tolerance for Harassment

Another part of the Civil Rights Act is a firm stand against workplace harassment on more than just a religious level. While teasing, one-time comments and other minor offenses aren’t against the law; they should be corrected and disciplined immediately. Many times, what seems like harmless joking around is leading to something bigger. Harassment should not get tolerated on any level. Ensure that employees are aware that it could lead to a hostile work environment, and make sure they understand that no type of offensive remarks is going to be tolerated.

Provide Accommodation

Accommodation doesn’t mean that employees of varying religions should get treated differently than anyone else; they should get treated the same. It simply means that the employee structure that’s in place should have room for exceptions that allow staff to practice their religion freely. That might include schedule flexibility, shift trade-offs, and exceptions to dress code. Understand, that if accommodations turn to decreasing efficiency or create conflict in the work environment, further compromises may need to get implemented.

Religious expression is highly important in a diverse world. Employers should train their management staff to spot out and avoid any stereotyping that could come with a particular type of religious dress. There also should be no pressure to attend events that conflict with the staff member’s religion. If an employee is unable to pay union dues because of religious reasons, ensure that there are alternatives provided to the employee. These options could include donating the money to charity or purchasing meals for those who are unable to do for themselves.

Religious Praying

Without a doubt, there should be a designated, and unused space within the workplace for staff to utilize for prayer sessions. Depending on the size of the company, it might be beneficial to incorporate more than one. Employers should allow prayer and should educate their other staff and supervisors to be sensitive, and understanding towards another’s need to practice their religion. Under no circumstance should an employee feel like they are going to get “in trouble” for practicing their prayers. If need be, obtain a schedule from the employee and ensure extra coverage is there during prayer time.

Quick Employer Tips

Preventing workplace discrimination should be the top priority, and should be taken seriously. Here are some fast tips to keep in mind:

  • Create a standardized interview, so all potential employees get asked the same question.
  • Positively educate staff and employees who may not understand, or may complain about another employee’s religion, or religious clothing.
  • Keep precise records of all employee reports, and events. Ensure that they are provided to the employee immediately in the case of any disciplinary actions.
  • Educate by organizing meals or activities that allow other employees to learn about a different culture. There could be ethnic food, music, art, and cultural clothing.
  • Provide employees with a multicultural calendar on the company intranet, so they’re aware of other important religious holidays.
  • Don’t isolate other religions. Example: Instead of saying “Merry Christmas,” try a rounded “Seasons greetings,” or “Happy Holidays.”
  • Consult with staff regularly to get feedback, and determine where integration improvements can be made.

The population is going to continue to get more diverse, and it’s more important now for businesses to make adjustments to accommodate religious, and cultural beliefs. Creating the accommodation makes great strides with avoiding workplace discrimination, and helps with high staff retention, morale, and better productivity.

What other tips do you suggest for integrating religion into the workplace? Start a discussion.


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Religion and the Work Place: Avoiding Discrimination While On the Clock

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