How to avoid workplace religious discrimination claims with employee prayer groups

Some workers come to you and want to discuss starting a prayer group on their breaks or lunch hours.

You think it might be good for morale and a way for workers to refresh themselves during the workday. At the same time, you’ve read enough employment law to know there’s probably a religious discrimination in the workplace issue. And you’d be right.

Employment-law experts say that regular prayer meetings can end up being sources of conflict and potential legal battles. But that doesn’t mean you need to just say no to any prayer groups for fear of religious discrimination lawsuits, especially if you avoid a few common traps:

1. If the company endorses the meeting, it could be religious discrimination

First and foremost, your company can’t discriminate on basis of religion, according to EEOC religious discrimination guidelines when it comes to job issues (pay, promotions, time off, terminations). Religious-purpose institutions (churches, synagogues, mosques, religious charities and institutions) have more leeway.

So if you decide to allow prayer groups as a matter of policy, you make it clear the company isn’t endorsing workplace religious discrimination by favoring one religion.

2. Creating a religious clique of movers and shakers

A second danger is when powerful people in the organization join the prayer group. One company we know got in trouble when the company owner ran the prayer meetings – and then showed a pattern of favoring meeting attendees.

Keep a close eye out for favoritism. Dissuade supervisors and managers from running prayer groups with their workers.

3. Allowing workplace religious discrimination

Faith is obviously highly personal topic. One person’s loving concern for the state of their soul is another person’s religious discrimination in the workplace. Stress in your policy that while people may be invited to attend, they can’t be harassed. Civility and respect must be the rule at all times.

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