BY Shulamit Shvartsman for Lawyers.comsm
In the past, religion was a taboo and inappropriate subject at work. However, there is a shift today. More and more businesses are encouraging spirituality and religion at work.
Today, religion has been creeping into the workplace. Consultants are beginning to lead employees using creativity-enhancing spiritual practices. Companies have also created new rooms for prayer and meditation.
Spirituality in the workforce has become a popular trend. There are many popular books on the shelf dealing with this concept that have become successful. Among them are:
- Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership
- What Would Buddha Do at Work?
- Moses on Management
- The Wisdom of Solomon at Work
- The 25 Most Common Problems in Business: (and How Jesus Solved Them)
Some companies have specifically linked themselves with the Christian tradition. Truett Cathy, founder of the growing fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, faced a business crisis. He made religion one of the corporation's goals. At its corporate headquarters in Atlanta, company meetings sometimes include prayer and all stores are required to be closed on Sundays. More examples include:
Hobby Lobby, a major outlet for crafts and home decorations is managed according to the Bible, and is also closed on Sunday
Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, teaches transcendental meditations to its managers
Tyson Foods employs its own chaplains, and other companies contract out for chaplain services with Marketplace Chaplains USA or Corporate Chaplains of America
Business classes have even discussed religion and spirituality. Spirituality has become part of the business curricula at many universities through courses such as "Spirituality of Work," "The Business World: Moral and Spiritual Inquiry through Literature," and "Creative and Personal Mastery."
Anti-Religion at Work
Not everyone sees this as positive. Many prefer to leave religion out of work in non-faith-based jobs. Many feel that religion is a very personal and emotional topic and bringing it to work can cause trouble.
Another fear is that spirituality can become a means to manipulate or control workers. It can a tool to keep employees in line and discourage disagreements. If the corporation is as sacred space, the entire working relationship is transformed. Furthermore, how spiritual or religious can one really be when companies are driven by profits, sales and revenues?
Last, employees may feel awkward or coerced by forms of corporate spirituality that challenge or undermine their own belief system. A Jewish worker may feel uncomfortable in a business meeting at Chick-fil-A that begins with a prayer to Jesus Christ.
Charges of religious discrimination in the workplace have exploded in the past decade. They are rising faster than any other form of discrimination complaint. Religious discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) increased 87 percent from 1999 through 2009.
Corporations can welcome spirituality and religious expression as a means to honor the ethics, integrity and deep religious convictions of employees. But a business shouldn't make their employees feel uncomfortable.
Workers can feel respected if they're assured time off for religious reasons (e.g., Sabbath for Jews) or a quiet place to pray during the day (for Muslims) is available. Workers shouldn't be forced to join in or feel uncomfortable if they have different beliefs.
If you feel that religion is playing too much of a role at work, you can contact your boss and explain your discomfort. As long as you don't feel discriminated against, this issue could be resolved fairly simply. If you feel discriminated based on the religion you practice, seek legal advice to see if you have a potential lawsuit.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I'm forced to pray at work, but I'm an atheist. Do I have to pray? Can I lose my job?
- Can I practice my religion at work if it doesn't harm anyone?
- My religion isn't mainstream and I feel discriminated against. What can I do?