“Religion in the Workplace”
By Rebecca Boartfield
A good rule of thumb for employers has always been to treat all employees the same, applying the same rules, no one better or differently than others.
It’s a good rule, and it seems fair enough. Adhering to this would avoid legal problems, right? Not necessarily. Sometimes, as strange as it sounds, you will be required to treat some employees differently and perhaps more generously than you would other employees. One example is religion in the workplace.
Do you know what to do when an employee says, “I can’t work on Saturday because it’s against my religion?” Or, “I must wear this head scarf due to my religious beliefs?” Or, “I cannot write and mail out those holiday cards because it is against my religion?” Or,“These tattoos are part of my religion?”
If you think the answer is to ignore these requests, you would be wrong. Given the laws and protections in place for religion, a statement like this from your employee is only the very beginning of what could be a more complex issue than you imagined.
Religion and the Law
The background starts with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which protects people from discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, and religion. This means employers cannot treat employees who may fall into one of the above categories, known as protected classes, less favorably than other employees not in those groups.
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