By On June 1st, 2017

Religion in the Workplace

Author: Rev Lydia D’Ross, Brookhaven Hospital, Renewal Program Outreach Chaplain


Recently I attended a meeting sponsored by Mosaic Chamber of Commerce about [Freedom of] Religion in the Workplace. Panelist included Sarah Rana, Director of Youth and School Based Programs, Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, Joshua Linton, Inclusion and Diversity Coordinator, ONE Gas, Gary Peluso-Verdend, President and Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary.

As the Muslim community begins their practice of Ramadan, the discussion was about companies or corporations providing religious accommodation in the workplace, providing flexibility during employee work hours. The Islam faith is not the only religion that participates in prayer during working hours but it appears to be the highlight of the discussion. Other religions like the Catholics, Protestants and others, also participate in religious observance several times a day.

The group further discussed undue hardship for companies that may suffer from diminished efficiency of their workforce. What I have learned from this discussion is that many organizations offer float days, mental health days, or extra Personal Time OFF (PTO) days so that those who wish to take time off to participate in their religious celebration do not incur the threat of losing their jobs.

Max Weber (1905) in his work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism observed the interconnection of religion and the marketplace.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from discrimination or harassment based on their religion. The act protects not only well-known, established religions such as Christianity or Islam, but also beliefs not associated with a formal church and even the absence of religious beliefs. Employers must accommodate the religious beliefs of employees unless doing so would cause the company undue hardship.

This has been an ongoing phenomenon for many decades. At the end, the workforce will benefit by allowing such time off for religious observance for ethical and moral reason and in return, have a positive outcome that benefits both the workforce and employee.

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