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Freedom of Religious Beliefs in the Workplace

As businesses and corporations spread to a number of nations throughout the world the multicultural workforce is becoming very common. But the truth about modern civilization is that there is a lot of prejudice and stereotyping still excitant. These could be based on previous conflicts between nations, terrorism that does not differentiate between cultures and outdated views of earlier generations that influenced their kin. Fortunately the problem of unequal treatment has become a pinnacle of today’s society that guides people’s views and opinions in the right direction. The workplace is a unique and sensitive environment governed by own rules and policies that must exclude any degrading and hurtful treatment of employees based on their beliefs. The employers are to provide discrimination free environment for the workers without disrespectful focus on their religious beliefs, as long as those beliefs do not interfere with the working conditions of others, as well as safety and privacy of the company and employees of other religious beliefs. Title VII of Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination and undue hardships in the workplace due to their religious beliefs. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC is an addition that sets out regulations for religious equality in the work environment in detail and presents guidelines to establish harassment free conditions.

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There is a great number of unique individuals in the world and thus people have different ways of expressing themselves in a number of circumstances. When examining the workplace proselytizing, it is important to consider how an employee tries to pass the information of their own religious beliefs to others. There are factors that might define the attempts to convert others as forceful, disrespectful or unwanted. Every employer has their own standards in regards to working conditions but the privacy and fair work place for all employees are the general expectations (Borstorff & Arlington, 2011). If someone is taking direct forceful attempts to convert someone to their religion after that person expressed their opposition to the conversion, the employer must take action to stop any further proselytizing. If the practice of religious beliefs is indirect and is limited to the workspace of that person then it is allowed by law. It is at employers’ discretion to make a decision if someone complains that one of the employees is being “over religious” and thus is influencing their work in a negative way. In this situation the manager should consider possible solutions of moving the employees apart or reasonably asking for a compromise that would satisfy both parties. Overall religious discrimination in the workplace is a known fact that cannot be denied and there are many rules and laws that are directed to prevent religion based conflicts from happening.

But since there is an abundance of issues that might come into play in regards to what is considered reasonable or unreasonable harassment, very often such cases find their way into the judicial system. The courts take great part in deciding if the employee has overstepped boundaries or an employer was neglectful of a person’s right in practicing their religion. For example, in the case of McCarter v. Harris County, an employee wore a skirt due to her religious beliefs after a recent conversion. The supervisor allowed her to wear a skirt, but when a new supervisor arrived, a conflict of safety arose. The employee was explained that because of the nature of work, which required climbing ladders and thus wearing pants for safety, she must put the regulations of the company first. This is the case where religious beliefs of an employee unreasonably interfere with the employer’s standards and policies. The court ruled in favor of the company, as the safety conditions of the workplace were not discriminating against the person or their religion (Marcum & Peri, 2010). It is clear to see that person’s beliefs is a very private and sensitive matter and this is exactly why there are legal policies in place to help companies and individuals in solving these problems.

In the twenty first century person’s rights and freedoms are considered basic human requirement in almost any nation and that is why the governments create legislations to precisely define these rights. Title VII of Civil Rights Act states that it is “…illegal for a covered employer to make any employment decision in which the employee’s or applicant’s religious beliefs are taken into consideration and the individual is subjected to different treatment in the workplace …” (Robinson, Franklin & Hamilton,2011, p. 42). This means that there cannot be any favoritism in relation to the religion of a particular employee, they cannot impose undue hardships and they may not retaliate against an employee due to their religious beliefs. This act specifically protects people and gives them the freedom to practice their religion. There are many ways that an employee could be accommodated due to their religious beliefs. It could be as simple as having days off and then having to work on a weekend, if the employer decides that it is fair and reasonable for the company. But very often accommodating someone’s religious views means making exceptions. An example would be providing different food for lunch-time break or allowing certain decorations of a workspace for holidays. It is everyone’s equal right to believe in something or not believe. Even the absence of a belief could be considered a belief and thus should be accommodated. In a situation where a person does not want to participate in a Christmas party arranged by the company, they should not be forced to attend and bring presents, it is their personal choice. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is a federal enforcement agency based on the rights and freedoms of the Civil Rights act, defines a reasonable religious accommodation as “any adjustment to the work environment that will allow the employee to practice his religion” (Borstorff & Arlington, 2011, p.62). A number of solutions could be found with the want to compromise and respect fellow workers, such as changes to the schedule, an agreement between co-workers to exchange assignments or duties for both short and long periods of time or providing a special location and a permission to have a private area for religious prayer. Every company is considered a small society with a number of different cultures and beliefs, which set their own boundaries for the collective of people who are willing to cooperate in a discrimination and harassment free environment.

Human civilization has taken many steps to evolve in the right direction basing its actions on kindness and humanity. Since the beginning of time there were rules and laws that provided a fair and equal chance for all to co-exist in a free and humane society. A person’s workplace is an important part of everyday life and thus it must have an environment without any judgment, harassment or discrimination due to person’s religious beliefs. The governments have greatly participated in the enforcement of equal work conditions but it is also up to every individual and organization to ensure a kind and respectful treatment of others.


Borstorff, P. & Arlington, K. (2011). Protecting religion in the workplace? What employees think. Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, 14(1), 59-70.

Marcum, T. & Peri, S. (2010). Dressed for success: Can a claim of religious discrimination be successful? Labor Law Journal, 61(4), 184-191.

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Robinson, R., Franklin, G. & Hamilton, R. (2011). Workplace religious accommodation issues for adherents of Islam. Business Studies Journal, 3(2), 41-50.

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