Today’s workforce is made up of individuals with varying and sometimes conflicting opinions about appropriate religious expression, particularly in the workplace. Because religion can be so deeply personal, disagreements tend to be uncomfortable, especially when emotions run high. In this atmosphere, employers may face challenging questions as they attempt to balance the rights of employees and the needs of the business, and be uncertain of what actions or policies they can and cannot implement to address the issue of religion.
Avoiding disparate treatment of employees based on their religion is a concern for any employer, and should be addressed from the moment a candidate shows up for a job interview.
So what are some ways that employers can reduce the risk of discriminatory behavior when it comes to religion in the workplace?
- Establishing written, objective criteria for evaluating candidates for hire or promotion, and applying those criteria to all candidates.
- Asking the same questions of all applicants for a particular job or category of job and inquiring about matters directly related to the position in question.
- Carefully recording the accurate business reasons for disciplinary or performance-related actions in a timely manner, and sharing these reasons with the affected employees.
- Providing training to inexperienced managers when management decisions require personal judgment. It is also important to encourage managers to consult with more experienced superiors or human resources personnel when addressing difficult issues.
- If an employer is confronted with customer biases (such as an adverse reaction to being served by an employee due to religious attire), the employer should consider engaging with and educating the customers regarding any misperceptions they may have—perhaps even sharing with them the equal employment opportunity laws.
This article is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.