One of the biggest differences between the United States and many other countries is the explicit separation of church and state guaranteed in our founding documents and the freedom that all citizens have to choose their own religious beliefs. These beliefs are protected by law, and it is illegal for employers to discriminate against any of their employees because of their religion. However, this does not mean that your employees can start doing anything they wish to and claim that it’s religious expression. What do you need to know about religious expression and the workplace?
The EEOC guidelines regarding religious expression state that employers need to accommodate the religious expression of their employees, but only up to the point that these accommodations do not become disruptive to the workplace or offensive or harassing to other employees. Specifically, they state that employers should, “allow religious expression among employees to the same extent that they allow other types of personal expression that are not harassing or disruptive.” This means that your employees are allowed to take their own religious holidays off from work, but they cannot force their coworkers to do the same, or that they can pray during work as agreed upon with their manager, but they cannot impose prayer on other employees during meetings.
In order to avoid any issues with legal rights, if you do have an employee who seems to be having issues with religious expression in the workplace to the point where they are becoming harassing to other employees and disrupting the workplace, you will want to make sure to speak with them as soon as you can. Have a conversation with them to try and find a way to make sure they are accommodated while minimizing the disruptions, and let them know that the harassing behavior needs to stop. Set a timeline for improvements to be made by, and make sure everyone involved understands any consequences that could follow.
By working with your employees, you can create a workplace that is accepting of all its employees’ religious beliefs.
This article was written by Gillian Kruse for Small Business Pulse