I'm a firm believer that discussing religion (or politics) at work is a
recipe for disaster. On this blog; however, if it's employment-related, then
that's how we roll...
And, after the jump, we roll into Oklahoma and discuss whether it's ok
for a lighting company to require that it's employees be born-again Christians.
(Hint: It's not ok).
We've discussed this before. Best to table those interview
questions that relate to protected status.
And acting on those answers, well...
In a lawsuit,
initiated last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission alleges that an Oklahoma lighting company refused to hire
a qualified applicant because he wasn't Christian enough.
Specifically, the EEOC claims that the applicant was interrogated during
his interview about his religious practices and beliefs, including being asked
to identify every church he has attended over the past several years; where and
when he was "saved," and the circumstances that led up to it; and
asking whether he "would have a problem" coming into work early to
attend bible study before clocking-in. The EEOC further claims that, throughout
the interview, the employer expressed overt agitation and disapproval at the
applicant's responses to its religious line of questioning.
Ultimately, the employer informed the applicant that the majority of
company employees are Southern Baptist, but that it wasn't required that the
applicant go to a Southern Baptist church -- as long as he was a
"born-again." Still, the EEOC alleges that the applicant was passed
over because of his religion (or lack thereof).
When can an employer use religion as a hiring
"Religious organizations" may choose to hire applicants of one
particular religion over another. Under Title VII, a religious
organization is one whose purpose and character are primarily religious, not
primarily secular. Similarly, a "ministerial
exception" bars Title VII claims by employees who serve in
A lighting-company exception, not so much.
Indeed, under Title VII, employers may not refuse to hire an applicant
simply because he does not share the employer's religious beliefs, and
conversely may not select one applicant over another based on a preference for
employees of a particular religion.
Therefore, if the lighting company here based its hiring decision on the
applicant's religion, it violated the law.
Is there any room for religion in the workplace?
The law recognizes that private employers can choose to express their
own religious beliefs or practices in the workplace. Heck, an employer may hold
religious services or programs or includes prayer in business meetings.
However, Title VII requires that the employer accommodate an employee who asks
to be excused for religious reasons, absent a showing of undue hardship.
Similarly, an employer is required to excuse an employee from compulsory
personal or professional development training that conflicts with the
employee's sincerely-held religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would
pose an undue hardship.
For more Questions and Answers on Religious Discrimination in the
Workplace, check out this FAQ from the EEOC.
This article was originally published on Eric B. Meyer's blog,
The Employer Handbook.
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