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Religion in the Workplace: Religious Faith Accommodation and Your Job

FlourishAnyway is an industrial/organizational psychologist with applied experience in corporate Human Resources and consulting.

Employees' religious beliefs may impact their diets, grooming and garb, observance of personal celebrations like birthdays, holiday schedules, and more.

Employees' religious beliefs may impact their diets, grooming and garb, observance of personal celebrations like birthdays, holiday schedules, and more.

Should Employees Simply Check Their Faith at the Office Door?

It's often said that there are three things you shouldn't discuss in the workplace: sex, politics, and religion. But it's not always as simple as agreeing to avoid the topic when it comes to spirituality. That's because faith can often affect employees on the job in unexpected ways.

Some employees find it challenging to balance the needs of their faith with their job.

Some employees find it challenging to balance the needs of their faith with their job.

What Would You Do?

Put yourself in the place of the following employees. What would you do? Could you check your faith at the office door? Could you find a way to honor your job duties and religious beliefs?

  • You're a server at a popular chain restaurant. Several times daily, wait staff must gather to clap and sing "Happy Birthday!" to customers who are there to celebrate. However, as a Jehovah's Witness, you object to the observance of birthdays.
  • You're a manager at Walmart and are a practicing Mormon. Your work schedule frequently conflicts with the day of your Sabbath, Sunday.1
  • You're a cashier at a grocery store and are Muslim. The pork and alcohol products that customers bring through your checkout lane violate your deeply held religious beliefs.2
  • You're a hospital employee who is an evangelical Christian. Your church requires that you spread the good word to others. You proselytize to co-workers, patients, and their families, offer to pray with them, and unsolicited, you email fellow employees Bible passages. Because of complaints, the hospital has requested that you stop.3,4
  • You're an engineer and a member of the Rastafarian sect. As such, you don an untrimmed beard and unkempt dreadlocks as a part of your belief system. Your manager has repeatedly reminded you to adopt a more clean-cut appearance or face discipline, up to and including discharge of employment.5
Conflict can erupt in the workplace because some religious sects require that followers proselytize.  However, employees who do not want to hear these messages directed at them also have rights not be be harassed.

Conflict can erupt in the workplace because some religious sects require that followers proselytize. However, employees who do not want to hear these messages directed at them also have rights not be be harassed.

Sound Far-Fetched? Think Again

Although these situations might sound improbable, consider this: They are based on actual court cases as well as published reports of employee religious conflicts in the workplace.

As a former HR investigator, I've reviewed a variety of employee complaints for two Fortune 500 companies. I've found that employee religion disagreements can be among the most contentious. People can truly dig their heels in and refuse to see other perspectives. Here's what you need to know about spirituality at work.

People wear dreadlocks for both religious and non-religious reasons.  Members of the Rastafarian sect often wear dreadlocks and untrimmed beards.  Employers may pressure them to comply with company dress codes.

People wear dreadlocks for both religious and non-religious reasons. Members of the Rastafarian sect often wear dreadlocks and untrimmed beards. Employers may pressure them to comply with company dress codes.

Changing Religious Patterns in the United States

A gulf seems to be forming between those who self-identify as religious and those who do not, and this widening difference has implications for the American workplace.

The "Nones" Are a Sizeable Minority

In the 1950s, the Gallup survey organization found that 100% of its respondents claimed a religious identity, even if they had not been to church for many years. People retained the religious identity they had grown up with.

Now, however, a sizable minority of the population has loosened its bonds with religion. One in five Americans, for example, reports no religious preference.6 They are referred to as the "Nones" because that's how they respond to the religion question on surveys. (Note, however, that failure to declare a preference does not necessarily equal "atheist.")

Their numbers are particularly concentrated among young adults aged 18–29. Males, Asian Americans, and political independents are also more likely to describe themselves as affiliated with no specific religion.

America is Christian at the core but diversifying. More than three-quarters of Americans self-identify as Christian, and about 20% report no preference.  Other religions abound in smaller numbers.

America is Christian at the core but diversifying. More than three-quarters of Americans self-identify as Christian, and about 20% report no preference. Other religions abound in smaller numbers.

Committed Devotees

Contrasted with this "unchurched" minority are those nearly 7 in 10 Americans who describe themselves as "moderately" or "very" religious.7 Religiosity is generally higher among women, African Americans, older people, Southerners, and self-labeled political conservatives.

Conflict and Accommodation

In the context of employment, changing patterns mean that there is ample opportunity for conflict as diversity continues to grow.

About 77% of the population of the United States identifies themselves as Christian. However, there is remarkable internal diversity among even individual Christian denominations. Additionally, there are small percentages of adherents to Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions.

Religion's Impacts on the Workplace

Religion impacts not just employee values but also lifestyles. Such differences can put employees at odds with one another. It can also create conflict regarding their assigned job duties, dress codes, scheduling, and other workplace issues as people struggle to honor their commitment to their faith.

As a matter of faith, Mormons typically avoid alcohol, caffeinated teas, tobacco, and coffee.

As a matter of faith, Mormons typically avoid alcohol, caffeinated teas, tobacco, and coffee.

Nearly a quarter of the world's population is Muslim, compared with less than one percent of Americans.  Many American followers of Islam are first generation immigrants.

Nearly a quarter of the world's population is Muslim, compared with less than one percent of Americans. Many American followers of Islam are first generation immigrants.

Examples of How Religion May Impact the Workplace

Religiously Influenced Need or PracticeExamples of Potential Conflicts

grooming (e.g., beards, long hair)

Wearing a beard can impede fit of a respirator and thereby create a safety risk for some jobs.

apparel (e.g., hijabs, turbans, kippahs, religious jewelry and pins)

If a hat is required as part of a job uniform, religious headwear may interfere. (Contrast the necessity of a hard hat for safety reasons with a merely decorative uniform cap.)

diet (e.g., forbidden foods, fasting)

Official company functions might not offer halal, kosher, or vegetarian options. Or, coworkers may be fasting, and you're being insensitive eating lunch at your desk where it can waft.

proselytizing (e.g., one-on-one conversations, religious email signature lines)

Harassment concerns. One employee's need to proselytize may conflict with another employee's desire not to hear the message. Customers may confuse the employee's personal position on religion from the company's.

observance of personal celebrations like birthdays

Participating in office birthday celebrations may be against some workers' religions.


Employees may be scheduled to work on their Sabbath or an important religious holiday.

contact with certain products

Employees may be asked to engage in job duties that directly contradict their religion, such as a Mormon waitress serving alcohol, a Catholic pharmacist dispensing the morning after pill, or a Muslim cashier ringing up pork products.

tattoos and piercings

Employees may be asked to cover tattoos or remove piercings. However, these have a prominent role in some religions and may be on the face.

space to pray

Some religions require prayer or meditation at specific time intervals. A clean space as well as uninterrupted time to pray may be needed.

decoration and display of personal workspace

Some religious scriptures or symbols could have the capacity to distract, shock, or offend coworkers or customers (e.g., anti-gay or anti-abortion rhetoric or images).

touch/personal space

Some religions avoid non-essential physical contact with the opposite sex (e.g., shaking hands).

Federal Protection From Religious Discrimination in Employment

Today's American workers can go to work wearing a kippah or ashes from their Ash Wednesday service with less fear of employment discrimination, thanks to the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").

Under this federal law, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on account of their religion. The law extends to recruitment, hiring, training, pay, discipline, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment.

It applies to all private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions employing 15 or more individuals. State and local laws may provide additional protections.

Religion Is Broadly Defined

Under Title VII, religion is broadly defined as a "sincerely held" system of beliefs, typically involving life, purpose, death, and moral balance in the universe.8

Protections of Title VII do not simply extend to established religions like Judaism or Mormonism. An employee's religion doesn't have to be logical, understandable, consistent, or anything you've ever heard of before.

Rather than belonging to a group, the employee can be the only believer of their kind. Religion doesn't even need to involve belief in a supreme being (e.g., Scientology). Title VII even protects employees who opt to have no religion.9

Title VII, however, does not shield employees from discrimination on the basis of mere personal preferences or their social, political, or economic philosophies. For example, courts have determined that the Ku Klux Klan is a political and social group rather than a religion, thus preventing a worker who was fired for participating in a pro-Hitler rally from seeking redress as a victim of religious discrimination. (Nice try, though, fella!)

The Hindu goddess, Durga, protects humankind from evil.  Hinduism is the third largest religion worldwide and is the oldest.

The Hindu goddess, Durga, protects humankind from evil. Hinduism is the third largest religion worldwide and is the oldest.

Religious Discrimination and Harassment

Title VII makes religious discrimination and harassment illegal, and it compels employers to take steps to prevent them.

Religious discrimination refers to treating an individual or a group differently on the basis of religion. For example, a supervisor may only hire and promote only members of his own religious sect, although people of other religions happen to be more objectively qualified.

Religious harassment refers to unwelcome conduct that is based on one's faith. For example, a Mormon is taunted daily by his supervisor and coworkers about various aspects of his faith, including temple undergarments and avoiding alcohol and caffeine. He is also falsely teased as being a polygamist to the point he wants to quit his job.

Harassment is not easy to prove, as the bar has been set pretty high. Isolated utterances and run-of-the-mill teasing that are not egregious are often deemed merely disrespectful and inappropriate. That doesn't mean that you have to tolerate crude comments and teasing.

If you are faced with such behavior, use a phrase such as these to communicate that the behavior is unwelcome:

  • "Stop it. You're offending me."
  • "You're insulting me. Your behavior is inappropriate."
  • "You're being disrespectful to me and my faith. Stop right now."

Regardless of whether you believe the offensive conduct rises to the level of harassment, consider reporting it to the company. The company cannot correct problems it isn't aware of.

Surveys of American Jews indicate that those in the Northeastern and Midwestern US tend to be the most religiously observant.  Least observant?  Those in the Northwest.

Surveys of American Jews indicate that those in the Northeastern and Midwestern US tend to be the most religiously observant. Least observant? Those in the Northwest.

Reasonable Accommodation

Title VII also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodation when an applicant or employee experiences conflict between work and faith-based obligations—as long as doing so would not present undue hardship upon the employer. (Note that public sector employees may be able to additionally seek accommodation under the First Amendment and applicable state laws.)

Reasonable accommodation can be simple and/or creative solutions that eliminate the work/religion conflict without creating undue hardship. Examples depend on the particular situation and might include:

  • flexible/adjusted schedules
  • use of floating holidays
  • swapping shifts or specific job duties with other workers
  • modifying a work uniform
  • job reassignment
  • changes to policies and practices or
  • designating a private location for prayer/meditation.

When there is a conflict between a job and religion, an employee should be clear in their request for accommodation, explaining that the nature of the conflict is religious in nature (rather than simply "my beliefs," for example). An interactive process between the employee and employer can often achieve a practical solution for both parties.

Not to be confused with Satanists, Wiccans follow a nature-based pagan religion and celebrate seasonal festivals called Sabbats.

Not to be confused with Satanists, Wiccans follow a nature-based pagan religion and celebrate seasonal festivals called Sabbats.

Less than one percent of Americans are Buddhist.  Those who are not Buddhist by birth tend to be Caucasian, upper middle class, politically left leaning, and highly educated.

Less than one percent of Americans are Buddhist. Those who are not Buddhist by birth tend to be Caucasian, upper middle class, politically left leaning, and highly educated.

Tips on Requesting a Religious Accommodation

If your religious beliefs conflict with your employment obligations, here are pointers to help you request an accommodation:

  • Read your company's relevant policies, including those on equal employment opportunity, discrimination and harassment, non-solicitation, safety, dress code, and employee conduct.
  • Consult your church leaders for examples of how others have constructively solved similar work/religion conflicts. Also, consider examples of how your employer has previously accommodated others.
  • Contact your manager, union representative, or HR department to make your employer aware of the conflict. Use a problem-solving demeanor to explicitly describe the situation. Also, suggest your desired solution.
  • Alert the company as soon as you become aware of the conflict.
  • Be willing to provide some basic education and context for your religious need (e.g., when and how you need to pray as a Muslim). You do not, however, have to provide documentation from church officials or others regarding the legitimacy of your request.
  • Referencing your rights under federal or state law will make your employer feel defensive. You may also want to refer to your religion as your "faith" or "spirituality" for similar reasons.
  • Approach the problem from a positive, interactive angle by aiming to connect with the person you're talking to on a human level. They probably have a religion, too, even if it's not the same as yours. Try to find a way to explain the solution as a benefit for the company, not simply you.
  • Be flexible and open to alternatives. Be sensitive to the business impact that various solutions have on productivity, cost, other employees, and the business. Understand that the company does not have to provide you the specific accommodation you seek -- simply one that does not create an undue hardship if one is available.
  • If the accommodation involves anything more than a minor expense, the company does not have to provide it. This is where that positive, constructive problem-solving attitude could benefit you the most.
  • If you're granted accommodation, request periodic check-ins with your employer to ensure that the accommodation is working well for both sides. As part of an ongoing conversation with your employer, report back on how the accommodation is working for you. Ask how the accommodation is working for the company. Make adjustments as needed.
  • Thank the company for doing the right thing!


1 Hooda, S. (2012, June 6). Walmart Threatened To Fire Mormon Worker For Observing Sabbath. Retrieved from

2 Associated Press (2007, March 17). Some Target Stores Change Duties for Muslim Cashiers Who Object to Ringing Up Pork. Retrieved from (2004, February 16). Retrieved April 23, 2014, from .

4Robinson & Cole LLP (2005). Labor, Employment & Benefits. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from

5Crozier-Fitzgerald, F. (2010, November 23). Rastafarian religious discrimination. Retrieved from

6Gallup Politics (2013, January 10). In U.S., Rise in Religious "Nones" Slows in 2012. Retrieved from

7Newport, F. (2012, December 4). Seven in 10 Americans Are Very or Moderately Religious. Retrieved from

8U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2009, November 21). Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination: Questions AndAnswers. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from

9Anti-Defamation League (2012). Religious Accommodation in the Workplace. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from

10U.S. Department of Labor (n.d.). Religious Discrimination and Accommodation. Retrieved April 24, 2014, from

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 FlourishAnyway


FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 02, 2019:

Doris - You and I are kindred spirits. I'm glad you called Bob out on his religious "double dipping" of holidays. Others were probably too scared to do so.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 02, 2019:

Flourish, somehow, I missed this wonderful article when it was first published, but I’m so glad that I found it now. In my opinion, a very religious person should train or educate themselves for a career that is more likely to accommodate his/her religion. I’ve worked both in private enterprise and in state government and encountered people of many faiths. I found both areas to try to be accommodating. I go along with that until that person’s religion starts to violate somebody else’s civil rights.

For instance, people who must be licensed by the city, state or federal government to practice their jobs are required swear an oath of nondiscrimination practices themselves. A pharmacist who refuses to dispense birth control pills is actually violating the civil rights of the customer. I believe that person should not take an oath as a pharmacist and then claim his religious rights are being violated when he/she is required to uphold that oath. That person should choose another field.

When I was working as a disk jockey at one radio station, another deejay was Jewish by birth but he had converted to Christianity. The first Thanksgiving I was asked to work that holiday for “Bob” so he could be off and go to church with his family that day. Christmas rolled around and fell on the Jewish Sabbath, again I was assigned to work that holiday so Bob could be off on the Jewish Sabbath. I had worked Jewish Sabbath holidays for him before, but it disturbed me to not get Christmas off on his workday. The next year at the beginning of the holiday season I went to the boss, a devout Christian himself, and explained the situation. He said well Bob was Jewish and it was nice for me to take his place on his Sabbath at Christmas. I told the boss that it didn’t bother me whether Bob was Jewish or Christian, all I wanted was for him to make up his mind and take the appropriate holiday, but not both. I didn’t appreciate not getting any holidays at all so Bob could take both Christian and Jewish holidays. He had done that to other employees in the past, but I was the first to complain. The boss didn’t realize that Bob was taking advantage of us and quickly remedied the situation.

In my last career at the state legislature, part of the dress code was no hats in the building. I don’t know how they would have accommodated a Muslim. They probably would have made an exception for headcovers.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 05, 2014:

VioletteRose - Thanks for a great comment. As long as there is flexibility, respect, and tolerance on both sides, many such problems can be worked through productively. I've learned a lot from people I've worked alongside who are different and glad that you have had a similar experience. Have a great weekend!

VioletteRose from Atlanta on September 05, 2014:

It can be really difficult when someone's religious beliefs conflict with their job. And this happens with other lifestyle choices as well. For example, I am a vegetarian by choice and I can never handle anything that has to do with meat. So I guess I could never be a chef, even I loved it. Because, even if vegetarian restaurants are there, my opportunities will be very less.

Also, I could never even consider studying for medicine, since that involved the cutting and studying of insects.

However, coming back to the topic, I think a balance can be achieved if there is some understanding from the employer side and also the person choosing the profession more carefully.

The positive side of having colleagues following different religious beliefs is that you normally develop a tolerance towards all religions. When I was working, I worked with people of different faiths and we were all friendly!

Great hub :)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 18, 2014:

Erin - That was nicely said. Thanks for stopping by.

erinshelby from United States on June 18, 2014:

This is a very interesting hub. Religious faith brings a deep layer of diversity to the workforce that can't be seen with the eyes. Respecting these differences, I would think, is a good step towards attracting and retaining the best talent.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 06, 2014:

Better Yourself - I'm sure it can be an incredibly uncomfortable, disheartening experience to feel like your beliefs are insulted or to feel like you have to choose between your faith and your job. Thanks for reading.

Better Yourself from North Carolina on June 06, 2014:

Interesting and impactful hub! Reading thru the hub and the comments I realize how fortunate I have been to not have experienced concerns with my religious beliefs in the workplace. Voted up!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 18, 2014:

Writer Fox - It's fascinating to get different perspectives and ways of life, especially the gas masks and special accommodations that have been made. Typically, there is an accommodation available, it's just whether those in authority want to go to the effort and expense to do it. Thanks for sharing your story.

Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on May 18, 2014:

America does have a lot of protections under its law for religious practices. Things are much simpler where I live because religion is everywhere and Sabbath observance is a way of life. No one can be required to work on a religious holiday unless they perform life-saving work like in hospitals or emergency services. And religious discussions are a national pastime.

It was interesting what you wrote about the man getting fired for having a beard. In my country, accommodations are made for people who have beards for religious custom. The air force created a special helmet for bearded pilots and special gas masks were made for men with beards. (Every citizen has a gas mask, even newborn babies!)

I pinned your menorah. That's the seven-branch menorah, a replica of the Temple menorah, not the Hanukkah menorah.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 03, 2014:

kmes - This was an enlightening comment about your experience. Thank you for sharing it!

Kayla Swanson from Wyoming on May 03, 2014:

Another informative and interesting hub. I am religious and when I decided upon my job choice, I realized that I would have to repress my beliefs somewhat. I work in education so it would be a big no-no to even create the perception that I was trying to influence a student's beliefs. Good and objective discussion is always helpful though. While I'm never usually discriminated by for my beliefs, I have witnessed several disparaging remarks towards my faith from people who didn't know my religion. I ignored it but I guess I've always found it is best to keep my beliefs private.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 02, 2014:

Thank you, blueheron.

Sharon Vile from Odessa, MO on May 02, 2014:

Just by way of being a grump: It seems to me that the religious among us would do better to focus less on restrictions on their costumes, hairdos, recruitment prospects, and food preferences, and focus a little more on opposing lyin', cheatin', stealin', and cruelty. You know, core values that have some4 actual importance.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 02, 2014:

Carolyn - I'm glad he at least has a better job. Very unfortunate.

Carolyn Emerick on May 02, 2014:

They know they he did have a case, so they offered him a small settlement. It was a pittance, something like 3 weeks pay, and he had to sign a paper saying he waives any right to sue. Because he had small children at home, he went along with it because they needed that pay while he looked for another job. I'm sure he could have sued for more and they darn well knew it! But when you need to put food in your kids mouths NOW, it's easier to take a small amount of money guaranteed over a larger sum hypothetically far off in the future after a court battle.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 02, 2014:

Carolyn - I'm glad he has a better job now. I think his HR got it wrong and he could have vigorously pursued it as a religious accommodation issue with the EEOC and/or state human rights commission. If it's something he wants to pursue out of principle since he was terminated from his prior job, he has either 180 or 300 calendar days (check your state's requirement). For more information: Thanks for reading and sharing.

Carolyn Emerick on May 01, 2014:

Hi Flourish, wow you did a really wonderful job with this one. It's so in depth and it really underscores how complex this issue is. You covered so many different situations and mentioned so many diverse faiths.

One faith I didn't see mentioned is Asatru, which is adherence to the old Norse Gods. Many followers choose to call themselves Heathens, because it comes from the Old English term for the people who lived on the heath, meaning the country folk who still practiced the old religion when the wealthier aristocracy in the cities were converting to Christianity.

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is because a Heathen friend of mine recently had a workplace incident regarding his faith. Although it's not a tenant of belief to grow a beard in Asatru (like it is in Islam for example), many Heathen men choose to grow a beard because men in Norse, Germanic, Anglo-Saxon culture held symbolic meaning in a man's beard. Since the conversion process for these cultures was by and large by force, and it was the Christian custom to shave, many Heathen men see their beard today as a statement of their faith.

So my friend was told to shave at work or be fired. He did his best to argue religious grounds, and even had a statement from a religious elder of his faith, but his HR department wouldn't accept it because the faith doesn't REQUIRE adherents to wear beards. But, Asatru is a pagan faith, and pagan faiths aren't dogmatic with rigid strict rules.

This is turning into a long comment! But your hub made me think of him and the battle he endured at work. He was a security guard, so you'd think having a masculine "look" would be an asset, it's not like he was in food service or anything! He ended up standing his ground, refusing to compromise his beliefs, and they fired him. After reading your article, I really wish he had sued. Your section "Religion Is Broadly Defined" really emphasized that his beliefs WERE sincerely held and fit all of those definitions!

Well, he ended up finding a better job that doesn't mind his beard at all. So it worked out in the end! But, reading your article, I DO think he was unfairly treated and his religious beliefs were not treated they way they should be under the law.

Upvoted and sharing!!! :-)

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 30, 2014:

WiccanSage - I'm glad you enjoyed this. Thank you for weighing in. I had hoped you would!

Mackenzie Sage Wright on April 29, 2014:

This was a really interesting read. I tend to lean more toward the side that says if your religion gets in the way of your job, or if the job gets in the way of your religion, you picked the wrong job and should find another. As a religious person myself I tend to take that into consideration when looking for jobs. Nice hub.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 29, 2014:

susi10 - Oh, yes, even I have made the mistake of telling someone they had copier toner on their forehead when in fact it was Ash Wednesday ashes. Whoops. Sorry there, no harm no foul. That coworker was an always frantic looking older lady in my department, and she was sweating that day. Her "toner" was smudged in no particular shape and dripping slightly in her sweat down her forehead. I had no idea it was a religious observance, now I do!

Susan W from The British Isles, Europe on April 29, 2014:

Religion can be a very controversial subject but you dealt with this topic perfectly! This hub reminded me of the fact that religion can cause problems in the workplace. Some really awkward scenarios could occur. Like saying, "how are you celebrating Easter?", to a fellow co-worker who is a Jehovah or Wiccan. It can cause quite the friction in a workplace, even, shaking their hand or asking them to do something with their apparel or not realizing that they cannot have pork in their diet. I never thought of those things!

Your pointers are very useful, we should all be very respectful to people of other religions and make sure that they are respected. I can see though, how religion may cause problems for managers or employees.

Excellent hub, voted useful and shared.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 29, 2014:

blueheron - Thanks for your comment. I have written on that topic as well: People must sometimes work for companies that do not share their core values, making a choice to feed themselves and their families.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 29, 2014:

fpherj48 - Thanks for weighing in! It's funny how complicated simple situations can get. In the case of the Jehovah's Witness waitress at Chi-Chis, it was her second day on the job and she was fired for her non-compliance with the restaurant requirement for not singing happy birthday. Although it certainly could have been dealt with differently, they couldn't have asked her about religion during the hiring process. They may have provided a job description and she may have brought the subject up before faced with a conflict situation. But that's all second guessing!

Sharon Vile from Odessa, MO on April 29, 2014:

To me, the issues you raise are fairly simple matters related to acknowledging the rights of others: to decide what they eat, how they wear their hair, and to be free from unwanted solicitation, which is just rude.

The real problems in the workplace are more related to conflicts with core values. How do you feel about spending your day telling callers that your boss is "in a meeting"? We all continually encouter routine lies in our business dealings. Somebody's job description involves lying and stonewalling customers--or, notoriously, denying valid insurance claims, delaying claims or services (as with the recent VA scandal), falsifying ATM account balances and debit sequences (as with the BOA suit), etc.

Many jobs kind of militate against ones personal standards of right and wrong, and how you treat people, since many of our public instituions (the public schools, for example) are designed in a ways that are fundamentally offensive, and existing only because of the coercive power of government. Selling real estate can involve you in some crazy shit!

Is the nature of your work related to providing a support structure for institutions you oppose on moral grounds? Is your company's income derived from government-conferred monopolies or subsidies? How do you feel about working for an arms manufacturer or a CAFO?

A person's job or career often places them in conflict with core values.

Suzie from Carson City on April 29, 2014:

F.A. The 1st. thing I will say is "Bless all H.R. Directors!" Years ago I filled in for our HR girl while she was on vacation. When she got back, I hugged her REAL hard and ran out of the office as fast as I could.

My experiences collected over a 40 year span in the American work force, all but my very early years, were in Supervisory/Managerial slots. So I truly can relate to daily staff strife in the workplace!

Using just your few scenarios above, my contribution is this: So many of the issues that can and do arise in terms of "Religious/Spiritual" beliefs are best dealt with, discussed and decided upon during the Hiring/Interview phase. This makes positive sense, especially for the potential employee....would you agree?

Having said that, each of your scenarios appear to be situations that can be addressed through discussion, minor changes, mutual respect and/or cooperation. ( For instance, it does not seem to be a major, earth shattering problem to simply accept that a JW cannot bring himself to sing "Happy Birthday," when there is obviously enough staff to do this) I will agree that it is not always this simple.

There will be those who are capable and willing to refrain from bringing any and all personal beliefs & opinions to work with them. Those individuals who understand that their job = income= survival= adjusting to requirements. Those are the Company "gifts"......the balance will keep the company busy negotiating and solving dilemmas.

Now, brought back a memory. I have to end here with a good laugh for everyone.

I will never forget a young lady I interviewed about 12 yrs. ago. During the discussion of scheduling, in all seriousness she said to me, "Oh the way....I go out on Saturday nights with my friends. I party hardy and always get carried home. Working Sunday morning is out of the question."

I sat numb...staring at her, hoping that any moment she would laugh and say, "I'm just kidding...hahah!" She didn't. CONFIDENTIALLY, she also did not get the job. I'm so glad she didn't tell me that Paryting was her Religion!!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 29, 2014:

Rajan - Thank you. With so many people practicing so many different faiths, some more openly and vigorously than others, it's bound to impact the job and coworkers at times. I appreciate your reading and sharing!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 29, 2014:

Flourish, frankly I have never given much thought to this aspect at the workplace maybe since such a situation hasn't arisen. All the same you raise some very valid points.

You have tackled this topic exceedingly well.

Voted up, interesting and shared.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 29, 2014:

Marieryan - Thanks for sharing your viewpoint!

Marie Ryan from Andalusia, Spain on April 28, 2014:

I believe that a person should not leave their religion or belief at the door of work , or any other door . Be who you are and be what you believe . Tell the world what and why you believe. If the listener is not interested, then you can desist , but many people are very willing , or indeed, are very interested in the views of others. I think we worry too much about being annoying to others. , but belief systems are an integral part of society . Let's have them out!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 27, 2014:

Devika - Thank you for reading and providing your perspective! Have a great weekend!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 27, 2014:

Great hub! I don't get into such conversations with people it can be offensive if some have a different understanding. Be it work or at any other place religion is a not a topic to get in to that is my opinion. The different beliefs of most people are unique and helpful in most ways. A very interesting and useful hub voted up!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 26, 2014:

Rafiq23 - It is fascinating to know the practices -- religious and otherwise -- of people in other countries. Thank you for this small morsel of insight. Have a great weekend!

Muhammad Rafiq from Pakistan on April 26, 2014:

Excellent article discussing pros and cons of practicing religion at work. But the case here in Islamic countries is totally different. In Pakistan, we have one and half hour break for prayer. Nobody can prevent you from practicing your religion.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 26, 2014:

parrster - It has united and divided humans for centuries. It must be difficult to feel like you have to choose between your obligations to your faith and your job duties, especially if difficult to find or the economy is bad. Thanks for reading and commenting.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 26, 2014:

Grand Old Lady - Your experience in the Philippines is enlightening for those of us who do not have to endure such discrimination. I'm amazed by the experience. Thank you for sharing it!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 26, 2014:

Frank - Yep, I think you just weighed in, but your perspective is sound and reasonable. Have a good weekend!

Richard Parr from Australia on April 26, 2014:

For thousands of years faith has been a difficult medicine to swallow, but a natural inclination of all mankind nonetheless. It is perhaps humanities greatest challenge, to keep the very freedoms we value most from putting us at-odds with our fellow-man.

Very informative and well written hub. Voted up and interesting

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on April 25, 2014:

It really is hard when you have a diverse workforce. At the same time, there is, in the Philippines job discrimination as well. Christian institutions only hire Christians, and sometimes they require Christians who are part of a cell group. It's not enough to go to service there, you must be active as well. This however doesn't guarantee that the business will succeed A Christian school affiliated with a church went on a downward spiral when the educators felt the church was interfereng to much with the school curriculum, to the point that the expertise of the educators was not well used. When I started with my business, my business partner only wanted to employ people from her church and I got two bad secretaries who couldn't even speak English with proper diction. I have also heard of scams with supposed Christians in church. A Pew study said that Christians are the easiest group for scammers to penetrate because they are so easy to join. The scammers invest a lot of time in the church, even emerge in important positions, then play their scams. Afterwards, Christians still couldn't believe a fellow Christian scammed them. The best thing to do is to run your business professionally, hire professionally and do everything professionally. Allow a degree of respect for different faiths, but not when it's at the expense of the well being of other faiths. I worked in an office with a Muslim who worked very hard and didn't pray five times a day. But he would never eat pork. As a result, the boss always bought a separate type of food without pork to accommodate him That's being thoughtful and polite. I think we need to be exposed to differences so we can help overcome our own preconceptions about them. And I personally think rastafarian curls are cool.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on April 25, 2014:

I don't like to weigh in on religious practices, but if it doesn't get in the way of other employees or customers It would not bother me.. religion starts from the heart and perhaps when you're working it should stay in the heart .. did I just weight in?

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 25, 2014:

Jackie - Thanks for weighing in. It's a difficult issue, particularly as we continue to grow and change demographically and also demand more of workers in terms of working rotating or unusual shift patterns. The vast majority of the time people do find ways to make it work. Have a great weekend!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on April 25, 2014:

I do not believe it is right to go into a job thinking they should change for me. If I work there 8 hours a day that leaves me 16 for my religion if I cannot communicate silently and unobserved with or for my God. They do not owe me if I agree to their rules when accepting the job. I think a work place should be very neutral and no one is made aware of anyone elses religion. Now of course personally I wish they were all of my religion but being sensible if I don't want their religion forced on me then I cannot force mine on them.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 25, 2014:

AliciaC - You are fortunate indeed! Thanks for reading and have a great day!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 25, 2014:

Faith Reaper - A wonderful perspective. You are a strong a beautiful person.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 25, 2014:

Cherylann - What a great example. Thanks for sharing that with us, and thank you for reading! Have a terrific day.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 25, 2014:

I never check my faith at the door, but then again I do not take my Bible and hit people over the head with it either at work. I am who I am, and as a Christian, I am a Christian seven days a week, not just on Sunday. I serve the Lord, and as God tells us we are to perform our job to the best of our ability, not for man and external purposes, but for as to serving the Lord, as He is the one who provided the job. I think the best way to let your faith be known is to simply live out your faith and that is it ...without you even having to say one word, unless asked directly. For example, when it was discovered I had breast cancer, my coworkers were baffled as to why I was not "freaking out" and had such peace, but then they soon realized it was due to my strong faith in God without me having to say anything, but if asked I explained. I am blessed to work in an environment where one does not have to worry about discrimination as to one's faith, as that surely would be a violation of my freedom. Now, if I were to stop working and sit out in the middle of the hallway reading the Bible out loud while others were trying to work, that is a whole different issue and inappropriate to say the least and not doing the job for which I was hired. But when it is time for my break and I want to go outside or, stay in my office, and read whatever, then I am free to do so, thank goodness. If others would like to join me, then that is great too.

When one applies for a job, one must keep in mind that you are a representative of that company and you should find out all that is required of you to perform your job at that particular company, and if it will go against any of your beliefs, then you would be wise to not apply there.

At the moment, thankfully, even at our official meetings, someone is invited to give an invocation at the beginning of the meeting. The person who invites will try to chose someone from a different religious affiliations than just sticking to one. As a Christian, I do not think of myself as "religious" but that I just have a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord.

Good article as always.

Up and more and away.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead.

God bless you,

Faith Reaper

Cherylann Mollan from India on April 24, 2014:

Hi Flourish Anyway! You've dealt wonderfully with this sensitive topic. Coming from a country that sees people of multiple faiths co-exist, I understand and have witnessed this problem of faiths at the workplace. Personally, I think one needs to keep in mind the repercussions one's religious practices might have on the income of the company. I remember once there was an employee who insisted on attending an hour long pooja (an act of prayer and worship) regularly for 2 weeks. Although people in the team appreciated her devotion, it became a bit of a problem eventually because the work load at that time was unmanageable!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

Bill - It can be surprising how religion filters into so many of our work relationships, both the conflicts and the positive team building chats with friends and office mates. For example, innocuous comments to coworkers about what they're doing for Easter (when unbeknownst to you they're Jewish, Buddhist, or a religion that doesn't celebrate the holiday) can be awkward, funny, or terribly insulting, depending on the context and the audience. And that's when a person is told (or realizes) he or she has offended someone.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

RTalloni - You've provided a lot of thoughts that should spark interesting debate. Thank you for reading and sharing your views with us. I look forward to discussions that follow.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

tobusiness - That is a terrific example! Situations I have personally investigated involved making religious accommodations that INITIALLY did not infringe on productivity or incur much cost or inconvenience to others, however as the individual rose within their sect the demands that were placed upon him by his religion made it obvious that he had reached the end of the company's graciousness and now needed to buckle down and reflect on where he wanted to go from there.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 24, 2014:

This is a useful and thought provoking hub. I've always worked with very tolerant people who have respected their coworkers' beliefs, but I can certainly see how problems could arise. Thanks for sharing the helpful advice and information.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

Suzanne - I enjoy your idea about the Church of the People of the Purple Jumpsuit. Will you be our high preistess? Will hubbing be involved?

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on April 24, 2014:

There has to be a bit of personal responsibility too. If I suddenly decided to believe in the Purple Jumpsuit Cult and was supposed to wear a purple jumpsuit to work every day for my new religion, my employer would certainly have a lot to say. Small observances, such as abstaining from pork or taking 5 mins to pray are not going to affect your ability to work, so I think small observances should definitely be allowed. Whether it's praying or surfing the net, everyone needs their breathing space! Voted useful.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on April 24, 2014:

Very interesting topic. I work for a large company and this issue comes up at times. We have people from every corner of the world working here with a wide variety of religious beliefs. There are bound to be issues eventually.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on April 24, 2014:

Hi Flourish. Things sure can get complicated in the workplace. I really try to avoid talking about religion while at work and I have never witnessed any issues regarding this topic, yet. But, it does seem that more and more people are taking religion into the workplace. I work for a large Fortune 500 company and with diversity being a big issue we have people from all over the world with a wide variety of religious beliefs working together. There are bound to be

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on April 24, 2014:

Flourish, you've done a remarkable job with a very difficult and emotive subject. I respect everyone's rights to practice their religion, but not in the work place. I worked in a large hospital in Saudi Arabia in the 80s where the people were called to prayer five times per day, fortunately, the majority of nursing and medical staff were foreign nationals.

I find that people are generally sensible about not forcing their beliefs on their work colleagues, but I guess there are always exceptions.

RTalloni on April 24, 2014:

Interesting and useful. I know several people who will want to read this post.

Re my personal opinion, I believe that the issues are actually quite simple, and that the concept of duty as mentioned in earlier comments could pretty much wrap it up (as opposed to basing our actions on how we feel and openly emoting what we think without thinking the issues through).

People with strict rules in their religion (such as a Muslim working as a cashier in a grocery store or a Christian spending time preaching the Bible when they were hired to do a specific job in a specific way) have a responsibility to find work that does not conflict with their beliefs. It is not an employers responsibility to accommodate their beliefs. Employers need employees who can meet the requirements of the job description if their business is going to succeed.

However, neither do employers have a right to refuse a person employment or harass employees based on their private practice of religion. The balance is not difficult to maintain unless either an employee or employer make an issue out of the religion. That's where the legal system should help divide truth from error, and even educate for everyone's future benefit.

An employer should have the right to fire an employee who makes religion an issue in any way--no legitimate business should have to deal with such an employee. As well, an employee should have legal recourse if they are in truth unfairly discriminated against because of their religion.

In this day and time, if a person takes a job that may require them to cross the lines of their religious beliefs without getting the parameters of a reasonable job description in writing before taking the job they lose any moral ground to make a case on. Legal grounds seem to be in flux, though.

Forcing employers to accommodate various religions is unjust, just as employers forcing employees to give up religious beliefs in order to keep their jobs by changing the rules after hiring them is unjust. The issues are easily solved when both employers and employees are clear about what jobs entail, what the company's policies are regarding religious topics on company time, etc., in the beginning of the relationship.

It is wrong for a person to take a job that requires them to cross their religious lines. They should get a different kind of job or even start their own business to accommodate their beliefs, but unfortunately, some employers have unknowingly hired people who hid their real agenda, which was to make an issue based on religious beliefs out of the job assignment's requirements. It is a sad day when courts do not take a stand that would prevent that sort of thing from happening to employers.

In a perfect world, the sort of workable solutions you included here would always be put to good use, but while a Christian is taught in the Bible to expect persecution for their faith and to strive to bear it even beyond as patiently as they feel possible, not all who claim Christianity understand the concept, nor do all other religions teach it, meaning that in America we need to pay attention to what is happening in our legal system regarding the issue.

Having a Constitution that has historically protected freedom of religion is a great privilege, but it is being degraded by religions that teach the opposite of what our fundamental principles in that codified law have stood for in America, and the reasons behind their successes are manifold.

Whoa--I find I could write many more paragraphs. The issues give us a lot to think about, don't they? Thanks for highlighting the topic and opening a discussion here.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

Heidi - You're right. There's so much room for error, and the answers aren't always easy. Sometimes the bad publicity alone can be costly for an employer. Thanks for voting, commenting, and sharing!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on April 24, 2014:

You have touched on one of the most difficult issues that any employer or manager must deal with! Those court cases prove that. There are so many different religions and sects that it's almost impossible NOT to offend someone at some time. So it's entirely possible for a manager to make a misstep without even being aware of it.

I'm glad that we're living in a society of tolerance and diversity. But it does make it difficult for businesses. This just highlights the need for well-informed HR consultants, managers and counsel. I see it as a growth industry!

Great discussion of all sides of the issue. Voted up, useful, interesting and shared!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

Sha - I can see your point. Sometimes one's religious beliefs deepen or change, or employees are given job duties/rotated to jobs that they had not initially signed on to. It can be very complex. In the multiple and often very public cases of Muslim checkout clerks who have objected to handling pork and alcohol products, some employers gave them gloves so they wouldn't have to touch the products, others put up signs (temporarily) that asked customers buying those products to go to another lane, and still other employers shifted the employees to other positions that did not require contact with such products. (I don't know, however, whether the offended employees realized the variety of products that contain alcohol or pork.) Thanks for sharing your experiences.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

JayWill - With religious freedom, we certainly do have it better than many. Thanks for reading and commenting.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

Austinstar - We sure like that you're right here in the US though. :) Thanks for sharing!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

Audrey - What and how people worship are so different that it's challenging sometimes to predict workplace conflict situations involving religion. Thanks for reading and commenting.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

MsDora - Thanks for stopping by and sharing your viewpoint! Much appreciated!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 24, 2014:

I've mostly worked for organizations that are primarily Christian or have a mix of Christian and Jewish. I've not seen discrimination, but then again, no one practiced religion in the workplace. I think if certain religions have extreme beliefs, such as the grocery store guy, that should be taken into consideration when applying for a job. Don't interview with a company or entity that will invariably put you in a compromising position.

Jay Williams from Austin on April 24, 2014:

Very thought provoking (and well written) article. I especially like how this is a perfect example of the melting pot that is the United States. Thankfully we have a wall of separation here so that we can address these gray areas. In religious-dominated countries, it's pretty black and white.

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on April 24, 2014:

Wouldn't it be great if there were whole countries devoted exclusively to one religion or another? Imagine living in a place where these religious/cultural difficulties didn't even exist. I'm sure the citizens would feel so safe and protected and comforted by their religion or perhaps lack of it. If only I could find a country free of religion, I would certainly move there.

Audrey Howitt from California on April 24, 2014:

Very interesting article! This is a problem for many and you have done a great job outlining the many situations in which conflict may arise--

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 24, 2014:

I worship on the Bible Sabbath and have never taken a job that required me to work on that day--no conflict whatsoever. It might not be that easy for some. Each case has to be decided on the person's conviction of duty to God and then duty to man. Some companies are tolerant but they do not have to be.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

Bill - Very difficult, indeed. Thanks for reading!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 24, 2014:

It really is an interesting dilemma, isn't it? It seems to have gotten a whole lot more complicated over the years. I'm not sure that's a good thing. :) Anyway, the scenarios you pointed out really make it clear how difficult this can be. Well done.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

ologsinquito - Locals must really be proud to say they are from Hell. There are also towns/cities in the US with neat names like Halo, Horns, Paradise, and Miracle. I have an odd interest in location names because of the stateside travel and moving I've done over the years, although I sure have never lived in any of these places. Thanks for reading!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

purl3agony - It's easier to get along with people who are just the same as ourselves, but we sure don't learn as much. It can be eye-opening to understand what others' value systems are and what their faiths require of them. Thanks for reading and voting!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:

Anna - Thanks for reading. I never gave the issue of religion and the workplace much thought either until I investigated employee complaints.

ologsinquito from USA on April 24, 2014:

How did I miss this one? I think you covered all the bases here, about potential situations that could result in a religious conflict in the workplace. I didn't realize there was a community named "Hell." That must be a lot of fun when people from out of the area stop a local to ask for directions.

Donna Herron from USA on April 24, 2014:

Wonderfully written and informative. I don't have any deep insights or opinions to share, but you've given me a lot to think about :) As you stated - as our society continues to become more diverse, more employers and employees are going to face some of these issues and challenges. Voted up, interesting, and awesome!!

Anna Haven from Scotland on April 23, 2014:

What an interesting article. I had never even thought about the conflicts between work duties and religious beliefs.

I am a very spiritual person. I believe in God, I believe in the ability of mediumship and I also believe that everyone has the right to find their own spiritual path, as long as they always act through goodness. I am happy to say I have never encountered any issues with my beliefs in the workplace.

An excellent, thought provoking article.