Walking the workplace proselytizing tightrope

January 15, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by David L. Johnson

“Have a blessed day.” “I’m praying for you.” “Are you a believer?” “Would you be interested in attending church with me?” Comments and questions like those may be common in your workplace. On the one hand, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employers from discriminating against employees because of their religion. On the other hand, employers have a legitimate interest in preventing employees from expressing their religion in a manner that is disruptive to business operations and preventing proselytizing from creating a religiously hostile work environment. That can be a real tightrope walk because it’s often unclear where the line should be drawn.  Tightrope walker businessman

Title VII requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs. That may present challenges when an employee claims that a need to share her faith or seek to convert others is a fundamental tenet of her religion. Employers need not provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship. Of course, what amounts to a “reasonable” accommodation and what kind of hardship is considered “undue” is open to interpretation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has interpreted an “undue hardship” to be a hardship that presents “more than a minimal burden on [the] operation of the business.” An accommodation that would impede coworkers’ right to work in an environment free from religious harassment would be considered an undue hardship.

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