Religious practices at the workplace

To allow or not to allow religious practices at the workplace is a matter of high sensitivity. The American workplace is a composite one, consisting of people belonging to different religions that require them to adhere to some practices. How much should management allow? What is the rule on this subject?

Legally allowed

Rules concerning freedom to pursue religious activities at the workplace are contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act forbids an organization with 15 or more employees from restricting employees from carrying out their religious practice. It however, comes with a major rider: this should not cause the company “undue hardship”. Clearly, the bottom line is that it is fine for the employees in an organization to pursue religious activities that are in line with their sincerely held beliefs, so long as the organization is not troubled on this account.

Practice your beliefs so long as…

There are quite a few variables that come into the picture here. There is difficulty in proving that a religious belief whose practice the employee is following is sincerely held. Most importantly, although the employer has to permit the employee to pursue religious activity, he is free to restrain such an employee from this practice, if he can prove “undue hardship”. This is a broad and subjective term and requires conclusive proof.

Some strict don’ts

Some aspects of the law, such as the extent of proselytizing employees or forcing them to follow certain practices because the management wants them to are more direct.

Judge individually

Permitting religious practices at the workplaces where diverse religious groups in a multi-religious, multi-ethnic workcan be quite a challenge. Many religious practitioners are sensitive to anything that might seem like an impingement of their beliefs. So, this is an issue that has to be judged on a case-by-case basis.



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