Religious gathering in the workplace continues to be a contentious and misunderstood issue. Title VII of the civil Rights Act of 1964 mandates that employers make reasonable religious accommodations for their employees, therefore, the freedom to express religious beliefs is a right in workplaces across the United States. That said, one must make sure that expressions of religious beliefs and/or religious gatherings at work do not undermine another individual’s rights.
Yvette Lee provides practical advice on this matter in the article, “Should we allow an employee to lead a regular prayer group at work?” found in the winter 2019 issue of HR Magazine. She explains that requests for religious accommodations must be granted unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the business. Undue hardships include workplace disruptions and substantial financial costs. In cases where an undue hardship claim could be made, employers should explore alternative accommodations with those who wish to freely express their beliefs. For example, the proposed time and location for a gathering may disrupt workflow, but these details can be changed to meet everyone’s needs. The bottom line is that no decisions should suppress the rights of anyone else.
Finally, those involved in workplace religious gatherings must not pressure fellow employees to join. Religious affiliation should never become a ticket to exclusive professional relationships or to get to the top. Ethical religious gatherings in the workplace serve the sole purpose of practicing religion freely with other willing participants.
The denial of reasonable religious liberties in the workplace is a serious issue that can bring about legal consequences. Discrimination due the absence of religious affiliation or participation in a worship group is an equally serious matter. Employees should feel safe and comfortable speaking up for their rights. Every organization should have a mechanism for addressing all forms of discrimination or suppression of rights. Using an ethics hotline and case management system is one way to show employees that their concerns matter and will be dealt with properly. Respecting freedom of religion at work, while also protecting all employees, is the right thing to do.