The Balancing of Church and Cubicle

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I liked the article that the New York Times ran a couple of weeks ago about balancing and accommodating religion in the workplace. As the United States has become a more diverse society, it has become necessary for employers to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs, provided that they do not place an undue burden upon the business.

The article talks about asking for time off because of a religious observance and recommends telling your supervisor the reason for the request, rather than saying that you need time off for “personal matters” or something equally vague. The same goes for an accommodation request for disability. It is best to put your employer on notice of your religious beliefs or your disability so that if you feel you are discriminated against because of them, your employer has knowledge. Your employer can’t discriminate against you on the basis of religion if they don’t know what your religion is.

Religious dress and appearance is a frequent issue in the workplace, as employees want to express their religious beliefs through clothing like a head scarf, dreadlocks in the case of Rastafarians, or tattoos for others. In these cases, there is a balancing act between the employee’s request and desires and the interests of the business. In the case of Muslim female workers who wished to wear the traditional, long Muslim clothing at a factory job, courts have held that the safety of the workers was paramount to their desire to wear their religious attire.

There usually isn’t an easy answer and it is important that an employer engage in a discussion with the employee who has made a request for a religious accommodation.

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