Complaints about religious harassment in the workplace is one of the emerging issues in the news headlines each week. Small and Christian businesses that want to succeed in a diverse global marketplace need to ensure that neither their website content nor work environment is misconstrued as insensitive, insulting or infringing on the personal rights of others.
Even if you are a one man shop or a homebased business it is good for business to always comply with the rules that require employers to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs or practices of others. This rules applies unless doing so would cause undue hardship or harm to your business. An undue hardship means, that it would be costly, compromises safety, decrease workplace efficiency or infringes on the rights of others. Here are some important things every small business owner should know to keep their right to free speech from clashing with the right for religious expression of others.
FAQS About Religious Harassment on the job
Passing out religious tracks and materials
An employer can restrict religious expression where it would cause customers or co-workers to reasonably perceive the materials express the employer’s own message, or where the image or message in question is considered harassing or otherwise disruptive.
Playing Christian music on your job
An employer can request that a certain type of music be played in a store or shop setting. It’s not against the law to play Christian music at work in through your earbuds. Self-emplyed people can n your business you can play any type that you want.
Here’s a link to a 60 second podcast discussing playing Christian music while working out at the gym.
Are religious symbols forbidden at work?
An employer can restrict displaying religious posters, a cross or other expressions that they feel is hostile, demeaning to their customers or other employees or disruptive to the workplace.
Wearing religious clothing to work
Employers must attempt to accommodate employees who, in keeping with the tenets of their religion, must maintain a particular physical appearance or manner of dress. When it comes to religious apparel, unless there are safety concerns it should not constitute undue hardship at your job.
As long as participation in a prayer group is voluntary and there are no employment-related consequences to participating or not participating they can be held in any workplace.
What is religious harassment
Harassment is better described as unwelcome comments about a person's religious beliefs or observance. According to the information found on the website EEOC/gov/policy simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated remarks that aren’t very serious is not prohibited.
Workers have a right to discuss religious topics as long as the conversation is not intended to insult someone elses religious beliefs or directed at a particular person. Employees have a right to be able to engage in a spirited debate of religious views as long as noone indicates that they were upset by it.
Filing religious harassment complaints
Employers should have a well-publicized and consistently applied anti-harassment policy as well as a complaint mechanism that includes multiple avenues for complaints, impartial investigations and they promptly initiate the appropriate corrective action.
Religious accommadation request
Employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate an employee or applicant so that they will be able to practice his or her religion. Accommodation requests that are covered by law are those relating to work schedules, dress and grooming, or religious practice while at work.
Co-worker complaints about religious expressions
Showing undue hardship based on co-worker complaints about proselytizing and other forms of religious expression generally requires evidence of unwelcome infringement on the rights of co-workers or disruption of work.
Rights to religious activities at work
It’s easy to recognize overt religious harassment in the workplace and follow the established guidelines to properly correct the situation. The real challenge is dealing with mindless comments and insensitive off the cuff remarks that can be misconstrued as harassment . A good litmus test for judging website content, company policy or even a conversation is to determine if the comment is severe, stereotyping others or fosters a hostile environment.
If you want to create a climate that encourages people to do business with you, make sure you avoid using images and comments that might be considered offensive to others religion, cultural heritage or personal beliefs.