Diversity in the workplace



  • [font color="6600CC"]>There are definitely laws prohibiting cussing if
    >the words used relate to race, gender, national
    >origin, etc..

    >I think its fair to say that cussing often has a
    >personal aspect that would include one of these
    >protected areas.

    Well, this is getting to be a matter of semantics, but no, even in the cases you cite, it is not the cussing that's prohibited. There are no cuss words that are per se harassing. Courts frequently have held that even where cuss words have certain sexual, racial, etc. overtones or origins, the mere use of those words in the workplace is not enough to establish harassment based on those protected characteristics. It is the context and the language surrounding the cuss words that can be prohibited, not the cuss words themselves. You asked how the religious discussion was any different was between saying "We cuss here, if you don't *&#@#@# like it, you don't have to work here" (paraphrase), and that's the difference. There are laws prohibiting religious harassment (in and of itself), there are no laws prohibiting harassment by cussing (in and of itself).

    [font color="6600CC"]>The boob comment is a good example. Playful
    >joking is not by itself harassment but it could
    >certainly get there if it became pervasive,
    >unwelcome, etc.. [/font]

    Who said it was playful joking? The guy made a point of touching me and then decided to make an announcement about it. It certainly wasn't welcome...I just didn't consider it a big deal. And even if he considered it playful joking, "I was just playfully joking!" isn't an excuse for that kind of behavior.

    But yes, it is a good example of how something that might seem like not so big a deal to one person can be considered harassment by another.

  • We are a non profit company and many of our employees are religious. If they choose to say a prayer before a business luncheon, they simply bow their head and say it to themselves. No one minds this and it prevents others from being uncomfortable who don't share that belief.
  • I am still learning new HR stuff all the time. I thought I had a bit of a handle on Title VII, but apparently there are aspects I don't get.

    I thought if you have 15 or more EEs and you are not a private club, that you could not discriminate based on a persons religion. We already know that an environment can be permeated with materials that can create a "hostile work environment" such as placing nude posters around the office. Isn't a culture that engages in group religious activities an environment that is permeated with a certain religious perspective? That environment would not provide the same opportunity for advancement to an athiest or, in the case of a Muslim organization, to a Christian that it would for a member of the group.

    So the idea that this activity does not step all over Title VII protection is puzzling to me.

    If a company is printing up a monthly magazine, oh, lets say "White Power" is the name of it. For the example, they employ 50 people. How successful would any other non-white employee be there? That person might not even be hired, yet it is not a private club.

    Is that discrimination? If so, aren't there parallels with the example that began this thread?
  • Interesting, marc. Laws being what they are, they continue to be morphed by case law which likes to use the terms "reasonable person", "prudent person", "reasonable expectation", and the phrase "in the mind of the judges did/did not rise to the level of". Which means case law outcomes are pretty much based on the unique aspects of each individual case.

    Our endless debates come in when we try to, as we seem to be doing here, apply a stereotypical workplace or our own filtered look at someone else's workplace.

    Your question, "Is that discrimination?" can be answered two ways. In the purest definition, of course, it's discrimination. Would a court find it to be illegal discrimination or something that is "a reasonable expectation".

    Good question, and one that I'm sure would be answered differently many times and depending on the circuit.
  • But who's discriminating?? Your chances of of being hired or promoted have nothing to do with your religion. Case in point - my former employer was a manufacturer of Christmas wrap, bags and tissue; the most tenured president was Jewish (sp?)so obviously his advancement opps were not thwarted.
  • I see it as more of a question of discrimination in the form of harassment than of work opportunity.

    However, I will point out that the fact that someone who subscribes to a religion within the Judeo-Christian tradition was the president of a company that made religious holiday wrap does little in the way of assurances that personnel decisions have nothing to do with religion.
  • I don't see how praying in the workplace, especially when you provide a product that serves churches, is a form of harassment. As long as we discuss our culture with applicants on the front end, I think it is up to them to decide how comfortable they would be in this environment.
  • Its because there are some people who believe any religious expression is by definition offensive and coercive.

    Their goal would be the complete and total removal of any spiritual component in the workplace, marketplace, educational system, etc.

    Anyone who chooses to allow or even encourage expressions of religious belief in their organization are automatically suspect.

    Its ironic really. Its become more acceptable in the workplace for a man to come to work dressed as a woman than it is for someone to offer a prayer before a meal.

  • Not only that, but if you were to tell an employee he/she COULDN'T pray in the workplace, you would probably get sued for that too.
  • I am a spiritual person. My spirituality is very personal and has grown through the years and my exeriences. I often have very long thoughts about the nature of our existence, man's relationship with nature and each other, etc, etc. All that said, I think organized approaches to religion are as much, if not more, political in nature as they are spiritual.

    Political, in this context, does not necessarily mean related to government. There is certainly plenty of that, but political in the context of religous entities.

    And that is part of what I find uncomfortable in a work environment. When a person agrees with and lives within a certain culture, that person and that group shares a commonality that contains a variety of assumptions that the group and individuals within the group have made, whether consciously or unconsciously. Those assumptions include behavior mechanics, conversation conventions, and other aspects of the culture that permeate nearly every aspect of the groups dynamics.

    When a new person comes in contact with that set of acceptable behavior standards, but has not yet discovered or bought into them, that person is an outsider. If that person believes in a different set of standards/behaviors and/or does not want to express his or her spirituality in the same method, then that person is going to be enough different that he/she will not 'fit' the groups parameters. That person will have a difficult time being integrated into that culture.

    The company cultures described in some of these posts is not about diversity, it is more about blending in.

    What I interpreted in some of the comments in the thread was more about worshipping in a manner that is accepted by the company. That if the applicant or EE was not comfortable with that, they can go elsewhere. Maybe I have misinterpreted, but I feel like those perspectives are more about getting in tune with the existing culture than it is about creating a diverse environment.

    Now I have gone and done it. Mentioned religion and politics in the same conversation.
  • Marc, I can't speak to your experience but organized approaches to faith do not necessarily need to have any political aspect. That said, its not unusual so I don't discount what you are saying. My point is just that it doesn't HAVE to be that way.

    My church, for example, steers clear of politics in order to focus on issues that we feel are more important: reaching people who are hurting.

    As for being an outsider, I feel that way all the time. Anytime I am in a secularized environment where people cuss or use Christ's name as a swear word, I feel very much like an outsider who has to bite his tongue.

    But I know that I can't expect everyone and every situation to fit my expectations or taste.

    There are numerous work environments that are coarse, vulgar, and free of any hint of spirituality. Why can't there be some where faith expressions are freely made? That seems fair to me as long as no one is coerced into any activity and no employment decisions are based on participating or not participating.
  • The environment you describe sounds fine. I descibes an idyllic environment which, in my opinion, is what the courts are trying to encourage.

    We human beings rarely achieve that level.
  • "Why can't there be some where faith expressions are freely made? That seems fair to me as long as no one is coerced into any activity and no employment decisions are based on participating or not participating."

    Hey Dorothy, oops, sorry, you're from Oregon not Kansas. Seriously, Paul, as long as people are working together, there will be disagreements, whether it be over religion, politics, work ethic, whatever; and where there are disagreements, there will be the cry of discrimination because we seem to have become a society of victims. Perhaps, rather than to live and work in an insulated society of like believers, the challenge is to "love one another" and to treat all as we would like to be treated. It is certainly a said state of affairs when comman decency and tolerance must be legislated.

  • Did the originator of this thread ever get an answer? He identified his workplace as a nonprofit and faith based program. If mine was a faith based workplace I would certainly have the expectation that my employees at the very least supported the general philosophy of the faith that's paying their wages. I would not expect them to share the exact same beliefs, but it would be unacceptable to profess against the beliefs of the faith. To take it from the other direction, if you were the President of Satan's Barbeque Sauce Company, you would not want someone preaching the Gospel of Luke to your customers!
    I personally have no problem blending my religion, my politics and my employment, because each is individualized and the expectation of one is not correlated to the others.

  • Getting back to the original question: The answer is (drum roll please), "It depends." My favorite answer (not).

    An employer’s right to religious expression is directly protected by the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the United States Constitution and not by Title VII. Second, because of the power differential between employers and employees, courts tend to view an employer’s religious expression as inherently more coercive than the religious expression of employees.

    Folks argue that to some extent the courts and the EEOC have failed to adequately address and recognize the inherent conflict between one employee’s right to religious expression in the workplace and the countervailing right of other employees to work in an environment free of religious harassment. However, to the extent that the legal system has recognized the conflict, it has been more concerned with prohibiting hostile work environment harassment than with accommodating religious expression in the workplace and has not adequately recognized that religion is entitled to unique statutory and
    constitutional protection.

  • Good post, Marc.

    I am all for prohibiting a "hostile" environment of any kind. I just disagree that "uncomfortable" is the same as "hostile".
Sign In or Register to comment.