One employee cherished belief was another's workplace religious discrimination

by on January 7, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Employee on employee religious discrimination at work is a rising concern

Bruce Greenlee waved a pamphlet in the air as he advanced toward HR manager Tammy Pippen.

“Look at this!” Bruce said. He held it out so Tammy could read the title: “Are You Saved? 10 Infallible Signs.”

“It looks like a religious tract,” Tammy said noncommittally.

“Sure does,” Bruce said. “I found it on my desk when I got in this morning. And I know who put it there. Dot Mullins.”


“You seem pretty fired up,” Tammy probed.

“You bet I am,” Bruce said. “I told her once already that I wasn’t interested in her preaching or her religion. You must know she’s always trying to engage somebody in Jesus talk. So when I saw this, I went straight to her and said her literature wasn’t welcome.”

“I gather you weren’t satisfied with her response, or you wouldn’t be here,” Tammy said.

“She just smiled and said she was sorry I couldn’t see the light, but it was her duty to warn others,” Bruce said. “She said she would be condemned herself if she didn’t.”

“I asked her to promise that she wouldn’t leave any more of her crap in my cube, but she said she couldn’t do that,” Bruce went on. “My beliefs are my business, and I have a right to be left alone. I want somebody to shut her up.”

Workplace religious discrimination and how to deal with the issue

Tammy nodded. “I can see how annoyed you must be,” she said. “Let me have a talk with Dot.”

This was a hot potato, Tammy reflected. If she came down hard on Dot, it could be religious discrimination at work. But if she left the problem unaddressed, relations in the department would fester.

What should Tammy do?

Workplace Religious Discrimination Solutions

Troubleshooter #1: Kathy Wiese,
HR Director, Farm Credit Services of Mandan, Mandan, ND.

I would address the issue from a productivity standpoint. When Dot’s talking about religion, she’s not working, and others aren’t either. She could discuss her religion with her co-workers during break time, but not on company time. As far as the religious pamphlets are concerned, I would consider that solicitation. And if the organization has a no-solicitation policy, I would enforce it.

Troubleshooter #2: Shirley Seely,
HR Director, City of Craig, Craig, CO.

They should ask her to refrain from proselytizing because the complainer has said he doesn’t want the information. This isn’t something the employee should be spreading, especially if it disrupts work. An employee is allowed to observe any religion he or she wants to, but they can’t push it on other employees. If this person doesn’t stop after HR talks to her, then it’s insubordination.

Troubleshooter #3: Tony Butts,
HR Director, Bates Enterprises, Childersburg, AL.

This would be similar to any other type of harassment, since Dot’s conduct is unwelcome and Bruce, the co-worker, has told her as much. I would tell her that concerns – I wouldn’t say complaints – had been raised about her behavior, and ask her not to initiate such discussions. I would note our conversation in her file, and if she stopped, the matter would end there.

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