Are You Making These Religious Discrimination Mistakes?
As workplaces become more diverse, lawsuits based on religious discrimination in the workplace are becoming increasingly common.
As an employer, it is important for you to understand that your employees are likely people from diverse religious faiths, even when they do not seem to be so outwardly. Religion is not necessarily something that people bring into the workplace with them. Many religious people may not even dress the part. Also, many people are atheists.
One mistake that employers make is to believe that only employees who seem outwardly religious, are likely to file a complaint. Your employee does not have to have a cross hanging from his neck, or wear an Orthodox Jewish beard to file a religious discrimination complaint. Sometimes, persons who are not even very religious or just nominally religious can make such complaints.
It’s important to establish company policies and procedures against discrimination, including hiring and firing,. These must be clearly mentioned in employee materials that you distribute to applicants as well as employees. Be careful with psychological testing, as well as personality screening tests of potential job applicants. These must not have any religious overtones, and must be tested against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s non- discrimination guidelines.
It’s also important to understand that your workplace, by the very nature of its business or its policies, probably attracts persons of certain religious faiths. For instance, if your business is engaged in kosher products, you are likely to attract Jewish applicants. Certain businesses seem to attract certain Christian applicants. Understand that when there are too many persons of a certain faith in your employment, people of other faiths in your workforce are likely to consider it a hostile environment. Take care that people of one faith do not force their religious views on colleagues, based on their large numbers in your workforce.
Train supervisors about religious discrimination, as well as harassment, and how to recognize it. Talking about religion in the workforce is an especially challenging area. The line between discussing religion and foisting your own religious beliefs on others in the workforce is a very fine one, and is frequently crossed unknowingly. Supervisors and managers must be trained to spot such behaviors, and intervene accordingly.