A framework for accommodating religion and spirituality in the workplace
Religious discrimination against Muslims in the workplace has included harassment and discharge.For example, on December 7, 2003 article reported on an Arab American waiter in Baltimore who was sent home from work because his name is Mohamad. That same year, a Trans State Airline pilot was fired because of his religion. Harassment cases are numerous.
(Click here for more up-to-date news stories on religion in the workplace.) While cases of religious discrimination and accommodation have involved a wide range of traditions and practitioners, this paper will very briefly overview cases involving Muslims, Sikhs, Rastafarians, and Wiccans.Douglas Hicks (a Pluralism Project affiliate), in his landmark study (Cambridge University Press, 2003) offers a moral argument for the framework of respectful pluralism that “allows employees to express, within constraints to be outlined, their religious as well as political, cultural, spiritual, and other commitments within the workplace.In addition, no religious tradition should receive undue institutional preference or priority.” He offers a critique of institutionally sponsored workplace spirituality (and civil religion) as follows: Civil religion and workplace spirituality each shift the institutional locus of religious expression from the church, synagogue, or mosque to another public institution- the state or the company respectively.This critical view of workplace spirituality should not be understood, then, as a criticism of individuals who seek to live out their specific religious or spiritual worldview at work.On the contrary, it lays the groundwork for the creation of a level playing field for religious and spiritual expression among employees of all backgrounds. As a step towards that level playing field, it is useful to look at a range of specific cases of religious discrimination in the workplace.In 2011, the number topped at 4151 complaints, but has steadily declined since, with the most recent number (FY 2013) at 3721. Much of the increase represents a backlash against Muslims and Sikhs in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001.
Some may be explained by an increased awareness of rights and the channels for redressing wrongs.
Many Muslims individually pray five times per day, so some of these times will fall during the working hours.
Prayer involves kneeling and facing towards Mecca; some employers have been able to accommodate the need for specific prayer space.
In more recent cases (2011-2013) involving clothing stores such as Old Navy and Abercrombie & Fitch, Muslim women in have been fired because their religious attire “conflicts with company dress code” or have been assigned tasks in the back of the store, beyond public view. It is also likely that women who apply for employment wearing the headscarf face discrimination in hiring, much of which may go undocumented.
The Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation has compiled statistics and developed a resource to educate Muslim women about their rights in the workplace. Accommodation of Muslim prayer times, both in terms of space and breaks from work, has had to be negotiated.
It also includes the employer’s acceptance of religious prohibitions against wearing certain garments (such as pants or miniskirts). “More than minimal costs” have been interpreted by the EEOC to mean a range of detriments brought on by requested accommodation, such as diminishing worker efficiency, requiring more than ordinary administrative costs, or impairing workplace safety. According to the U. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Washington, D.