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With the holidays quickly approaching it is important to be sensitive to all employees’ cultural and religious beliefs. Many employees will decorate their office spaces with trinkets and ornaments revealing their religious beliefs during the holidays. With employee claims of religious discrimination on the rise in the U.S. and workers’ expressions of faith growing more diverse, companies are dealing with the complexities of managing religion on the job.
Religious discrimination is a serious matter, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission religion-based complaints have more than doubled in the past 15 years, and are growing at an even faster pace. While the act is non-physical, religious discrimination can cause serious emotional harm.
Companies big and small are being affected by the complex intermixing of work and faith.
At a minimum, religious discrimination affects productivity, trust and the workplace culture. Being discriminated against not only puts a huge emotional strain on someone, but in turn could put a financial strain on the company due to unhappy or less-productive employees.
Signs of Religious Discrimination During the Holidays
A few of the common signs of religious discrimination include the following:
- Requiring an employee to work on their designated holiday while others are not required.
- An employer only allowing certain religious forms of decorations during the holidays.
- Asking only certain staff to remove their holiday decorations.
- Only allowing or inviting certain staff members to a company-wide holiday celebration.
- Name calling or use of slander toward an individual after discovering their religious beliefs.
What Can Be done?
If religious discrimination is prevalent in your company, do something. Some ways to stop this behavior and take a stand on workplace discrimination include:
- Inspire your staff by leading with an open and inquisitive spirit and encourage your management team to do the same.
- Encourage employees to report incidents to their managers or in the event it is their manager to HR or another top level executive. If a case comes forward, interview multiple employees and document the incident.
- Educate your associates on how to address the situation in a professional manner with the violator.
- Implement a company-wide policy in regards to holiday decorations well before any decorating begins. If any decorations are allowed all decorations must be allowed.
- Protect your organization with Employment Practice Liability coverage. It provides protection against employee lawsuits for rights protected under a multitude of different acts, including religious discrimination. Even though it is important to have EPL coverage it is equally important to prevent it from happening in the workplace.
Despite the growing number of religious discrimination complaints being brought to the EEOC, a small number of cases actually reach the litigation stage. In fact, the EEOC filed nine religion-based lawsuits in fiscal year 2012, a drop from 15 in 2011. Still, settlements of religious discrimination claims often alert companies and encourage them to provide training and meet other requirements. While the threat is minimal the reality is discrimination is happening in the workplace; these settlements should serve as a warning for other organizations.
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