It’s all too easy to get into an argument about religion. Faith and belief are emotional topics, and disagreements can flash into knock-down, drag-out battles.

Needless to say, supervisors don’t want to ignite or fan the flames of religious dispute in the workplace.

Consider the case of a supervisor for an apartment management firm in Florida.

Bible verse displayed
The supervisor was visiting the office of an apartment complex in preparation for a federal inspection. (The company received federal funds in the form of rental assistance for low-income tenants.)

She noticed that the couple who managed the complex had hung a picture on the wall containing a New Testament verse. The supervisor knew that the couple, when managing other complexes, had objected to the company’s policy against religious displays in the workplace.

Now, the supervisor – citing company policy and her belief that the picture’s display violated federal fair housing law – asked the woman to take the picture down.

Fired for faith?
When the woman refused, the dispute escalated to the point where the supervisor fired the woman for insubordination and then allegedly told the man, “You’re fired, too. You’re too religious.”

The couple sued for religious discrimination, and the supervisor denied making the remark.

But a federal appeals court said a jury might well find that she actually did, and ordered the case to go to trial.

Takeaway: Keep your views on religion – and especially employees’ religious convictions – to yourself.

Cite: Dixon v. The Hallmark Cos., No. 10-10047, 11th Cir., 12/9/10.

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