Issues with people of different beliefs — and those with none at all — are showing up more in the workplace
Several months ago I wrote an article about Pagans/Wiccans and the problems they sometimes run into because of their beliefs. Here, John Yantis of the East Valley Tribune is reporting something very similar, but it is not just about Pagans:
Faith is not being left at the office door. More and more, religion is entering the workplace, creating a burgeoning area of employment law, experts say. Religious discrimination lawsuits are up significantly as workers and employers squabble over holidays, dress codes, Bible studies and religious symbols. "In many workplaces, there are many religious wars occurring as we speak," said Joe Clees, a Phoenix human resources attorney who has dealt with civil rights issues for two decades. "I think we all sort of thought over the years religion would sort of diminish in importance in working life," he said. "In fact, it seems to more and more important, and regulators are increasingly paying attention to religious issues."
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed 1,388 religion-based charges against employers in the United States in 1992, said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney in Phoenix district office. In 2004, the latest numbers available, there were 2,466 charges, a nearly 78 percent increase over the past 12 years. "We’ve had many religious accommodation cases for every different kind of religion you can imagine, LDS, non-LDS, Christian, Jewish. We have a case we’re litigating right now that has to do with somebody who is a pagan. People’s religious beliefs run the gamut, and it seems we all could do with a bit more . . . acceptance and tolerance about other people’s religious belief practices," O’Neill said.
There are several factors for the increase of religion at work, said Clees, managing shareholder of the Phoenix office of Ogletree Deakins. Generally, employees tend to be a little more fervent with stronger beliefs in their rights in the workplace, he said. "We’re seeing the rise of a lot of religions that include active proselytizing at work," he said. "Most of the wars that are going on in the world now are religious-related. So religion and religious passion tend to be high at all levels of public life and that naturally does then spill over to the workplace. A lot of religions preach that it should be adhered to both at work and at home." At the same time, nonreligious people are increasingly adamant, Clees said. Atheists are regularly challenging crosses and Christmas trees, and civil liberties groups continue to aggressively try to stop the display of religious information and displays, at least in the public sector, he said.
Also, there are more employers who adhere to Christian and other religious tenets, and they sometimes seek to apply those to others within the workplace as well, Clees said.
"People are more willing to challenge than they used to be," he said.
The rest of the story is here: