Anchorage, Alaska (PRWEB) December 06, 2012
A client recently asked Dr. Curry about religion in the workplace. The client mentioned wanting to walk the balance between allowing religious expression and not creating offense for those uncomfortable with religion. Lynne Curry, Ph.D. (CEO of The Growth Company, Inc.) has over 30 years’ experience in HR Management and consulting. This can be a touchy subject, and today she explains how to properly incorporate religion in the workplace.
Dr. Curry starts off by saying, “Managers and employees want to be whole people at work and for many that includes being openly religious. Many large companies embrace this. Ford and Xerox sponsor spiritual retreats to spark creativity. Multiple businesses include Christian symbols and Bible verses on company advertising. Chick-fil-A closes on Sundays to honor the Sabbath and dedicates each new store to ‘God’s glory.’”
What traps does this have for employers, particularly as religious discrimination charges filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) increased by 87 percent in the last decade?
Dr. Curry explains that the Civil Rights of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants because of their religion when making hiring, firing or other employment-related decisions. Employers cannot force an employee to participate in a religious activity, nor prevent an employee from participating in a religious activity. Dr. Curry explains, “This means employers need to reasonably accommodate to their employees’ sincerely-held religious practices unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer. This might involve flexible scheduling, job reassignments or modifications of grooming requirements. In one recent example, the EEOC required United Parcel Service (UPS) to pay $23,500 to an employee after UPS forced the employee to work past sundown on his Sabbath.”
According to EEOC Office of Legal Counsel senior attorney advisor Jeanne Goldberg, “private employers may discuss religion in the workplace unless employees say it’s unwelcome, as protections extend to those who profess no religious beliefs. Similarly, offensive comments about an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, or lack of belief, constitute illegal harassment if frequent or so severe that they create a hostile, offensive work environment.”
Next, Dr. Curry says that companies that want to walk the fine balance between allowing religious expression and not creating offense for those uncomfortable with religion can do the following:
“Allow religious expression among employees to the same extent that they allow other types of personal expression. For example, a group of employees might request the chance to have prayer time in the coffee room at break time. At the same time, if company managers start staff meetings with a group prayer, individuals who don’t want to participate need to be allowed to bow out without negative repercussions.
Provide a publicized, consistently applied anti-harassment policy that covers religious harassment and describes procedures and multiple avenues for bringing issues to management’s attention and assures employees that the company protects complainants against retaliation.”
. For more information on The Growth Company Inc.’s training and HR On-call services to companies needing help with recruiting, team-building, strategic planning, management or employee training, mediation or HR trouble-shooting, please visit http://www.thegrowthcompany.com.
Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at lynne(at)thegrowthcompany(dot)com. Follow Lynne on Twitter: @lynnecurry10.
© Lynne Curry, December 2012, http://www.thegrowthcompany.com