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Religious Discrimination in the Workplace Essay

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Updated: Feb 10th, 2021

The General Ethical Issue and Why It Is Important To Me Personally

The general ethical issue that I am looking at is whether it is ethical to discriminate against people in the workplace. Workplace religious discrimination occurs when a person is treated in a prejudicial way on the basis of his or her religion. When this occurs, the behavior of the individual is influenced in such a way that they feel like they do not belong to the group. This topic sparked a personal interest for me because I have a close friend who was victimized at work because of his religion. I grew up in a local town upcountry, where every inhabitant viewed the other as “family.” Brotherhood was well embraced in my community, despite the fact that the population was made up of both Christians and Muslims, almost in equal numbers. Like any other kid, I had a best friend, Galgallo Hassan. He was a Muslim, and I was a staunch Christian. Whenever he spent the night at our place, he would say the grace with us, and whenever I was in their place, I would follow through as Hassan’s parents prayed.

As fate would have it, we found ourselves in the same high school and university in the capital city. He, however, graduated before me and got employed at a financial institution in the city. Hassan later realized that he was the only Muslim in the organization, although that never bothered him until he started noticing that no one wanted to be seen hanging around with him. Whenever there were group activities or brainstorming sessions, his opinions never counted. He would also be alone during the team-building activities because others always avoided associating with him. Things go from bad to worse when the organization decided to train the employees at Hassan’s employment status for a possible management position at new branches. My friend was not considered for the training. Needless to say, he felt humiliated. He resigned and is in the process of suing the organization.

Religious discrimination at the workplace creates a natural resentment towards the leader of the group or even the whole group at large. Consequently, the opportunities and benefits enjoyed by the group are not enjoyed by the individual. It is necessary for the organization’s management to make decisions that are rational and logical so as to ensure that some members of a group do not feel excluded just because they do not belong to the religion of the majority.

The Underlying Ethical Questions Involved That I Intend To Answer

Should the religion of a person be an issue in his or her place of work? Many organizations all over the world have made it so difficult for Muslims, in particular, to enjoy equal rights. Why is it that many organizations give unfavorable treatment to employees and, in some cases, applicants just because their religion is the minority? The law should protect and uphold the rights and freedom of people from all religions, and not just those who belong to the traditional majority religion. Still, on religious discrimination, why do people always find it strange and, in some cases, try to stop marriages involving people in different religions? People who associate with a particular religion always consider those of their own religious group as the most suitable partners. Whereas everyone is right in deciding to join whatever religion they wish, it is not right to discriminate against people of another religion.

Factual Information That Is Crucial To Answering the Ethical Questions

The law in many, if not all, countries forbids all aspects of religious discrimination in work situations. The United States law, for instance, forbids religious discrimination in work settings, whether during hiring or firing. It is also unlawful to discriminate in payments, assignment of tasks and responsibilities, and while offering benefits and training. It is unlawful to discriminate or harass people because they follow a different religion from yours. Religious harassment includes making an offensive remark directed to the religious practice of a person, hostility, among others (Gregory 78). A hostile working environment may involve one in which a person is ridiculed, demoted, or fired without a satisfactory explanation. The law, however, does not cover minor acts such as teasing and isolating people. It should be noted that when the not-so-serious harassment is done frequently, a hostile environment is borne (Weller, 122). A person can be harassed by his or her own supervisor, a fellow employee, an employer, or even a client.

Title VII of the law prohibits religious discrimination in the aspect of job segregation. This covers acts such as the assignment of a worker to a task that does not link him or her to a customer due to an actual or anticipated preference of the client or customer. The law also prohibits employers from failing to accommodate the religious practices of a worker, as long as doing so would not create a burden in enforcing the policies of the organization. In this respect, the law requires an employer to reasonably adjust the policy so as to allow an employee to carry out his or her religious practice. Reasonable adjustments would include establishing a flexible working schedule that would accommodate someone’s worship hours and a suitable shift swap that is flexible to someone’s religious practice (Cotter, 68).

Accommodating an employee’s religious practices and beliefs include their grooming and dress codes. For instance, Jews’ dress code includes a yarmulke, Muslims wear head coverings, Rastafarians wear dreadlocks, while Sikh does not shave their hair and beards. The employees are also expected to observe their religion’s prohibitions on various dress codes such as mini skirts and trousers. In addition, they should notify their respective employers of their desired religious accommodations. Not every employer knows the details of the practices and beliefs of all religions. Where more information is required, an interactive process should be organized by both parties to reach an agreement. In the event that accommodating an employee’s request would create an undue hardship to the organization, the employer is entitled to turn it down. Undue hardship can include a compromise in the safety of the workplace, uneconomical accommodation, job inefficiency, an infringement of other workers’ rights, or overworking others. Finally, the law allows a worker to decide whether or not to participate in any activity linked to religion in the workplace. For instance, it would be wrong to force an employee to join a bible study activity.

How Arguments Based On Ethical Theory and Empirical Evidence Led Me to Adopt a Position on Religious Discrimination

Many employees are being forced to deal with a situation that forces them to compromise on their religious beliefs and practices so as to fit in an organization. For instance, many Muslim women are forced to do away with their head coverings so that they can keep their jobs. In addition, a good number of employers also face a situation where accommodating the religious practices of employees in the organization may conflict with the organization’s effective operation. For instance, employees may decide to start a bible study association and use an open office or a conference room during working hours. An employer might find it difficult to have to put up with that. Many employers fail to understand what their duties are in situations that involve religious beliefs and practices. On the other hand, the political environment has influenced people to be more vocal about their religion more than ever before. When the Democrats and Republicans proclaim their respective religious beliefs so strongly, the population that does not confess to either feels excluded (Vickers, 155). This creates a kind of a fight for recognition and acceptance all the way to the workplaces.

According to Kantian ethics, an action is justified if it is done in accordance with a principle that is morally acceptable the society. This should be regardless of a person’s spirituality. Usually, employers are so savvy about what constitutes their rights. They know the kind of situations that require them to advance accommodation. This always gives them an upper hand above their employees because many workers do not know their rights in detail. Therefore, they may compromise on their religious expectations while fearing to lose their jobs. Many employers tend to take advantage of such “opportunities” to enforce their policies. There is also the possibility that a good number of employers do not know that they are required to accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of their workers.

Why my position is more persuasive than opposing views that are based on different evidence or ethical theories

In recent years, there has been an increase in the adoption of the religious fundamentalism theory. It makes people loyal to their religions and intolerant of others (Ravitch, 45). Mill’s utilitarian theory, for instance, argues that as long as action leads to the promotion of the desired consequence, everyone should tolerate it. With religious numbers rising massively in the world, more and more people are becoming less tolerant of fellow humans. Since 9/11, the media has focused its attention on inter-religion conflicts and created the impression that it is difficult for different religions to co-exist.

Today, more than ever, people are more willing to tag their faith into their workplaces and avoid those who do not share in their faith. According to Neil Addison, people have adopted the notion that we are living in tough times, which requires that in some instances, you just have to give up on your religion to survive the moment (Addison, 203). This kind of thought presents some religions as a threat. It also encourages people to compromise on what they know is against their religion’s beliefs. The good news is that the law exists, which protects against intergroup conflicts. Since 1997, religion-related court cases have more than doubled in the United States. This reflects why the failure to accommodate religious diversity has negatively affected people.

The Practical Application of My Position

Religious diversity should be embraced in the workplace. The employers need to develop a working environment that embraces all represented religions. If the financial institution where my friend, Hassan, was working would have accommodated his religious practice and belief, he would still be a happy, effective employee. They would have also trained him just like the others, and maybe he would be a manager at the institution’s branch office. People of other religions would have joined the organization, and that would have created a racially diversified organization.

Works Cited

Addison, Neil. Religious Discrimination and Hatred Law. New York: Routledge-Cavendish, 2007. Print.

Cotter, Anne-Marrie. Heaven Forbid: An International Legal Analysis of Racial Discrimination. Burlington: Ashton Publishing Company, 2009. Print.

Gregory, Raymond. Encountering Religion in the Workplace: The Legal Rights and Responsibilities of Employers and Workers. New York: Oxford University, Print.

Ravitch, Frank. School Prayer and Discrimination:The civil Rights of Religious Minorities and Dissenters. New York: Northeastern University Press, 1999. Print.

Vickers, Lucy. Religious freedom, religious discrimination and the workplace. Michigan: Hart Publishers, 2008. Print.

Weller, Paul. Time for a change: reconfiguring religion, state and society. New York: T&T Clark International, 2005. Print.

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