Religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. Under the First Amendment, Americans enjoy two freedoms with respect to religion: the right to be free from a government-imposed religion, and the right to practice any religion. While private employers are not bound by the Constitution’s restrictions on government, they are subject to federal and state laws that ban religious discrimination in employment. Given the number of employed persons, the diversity of religious faiths in this country, and the freedom we enjoy to express our views, the subject of religious discrimination continues to pose tough questions for employers and the courts.
Because of our country’s great diversity, employers may hire employees from a great variety of countries and religious backgrounds. In an ideal work environment, the religious beliefs of a given employee, or of the employer, do not create conflicts. Either is free to believe as he or she chooses and, as long as the work gets done satisfactorily, neither will encounter difficulty on the basis of religion. Yet, in the world we live in, a number of issues can arise to create friction. An employer and employee may discuss, or even argue over, religious principles.
Religion is not simply a matter of belief. The faithful practice their religion through various actions to include; styles of dress, manner of keeping or wearing one’s hair, trying to recruit others to their faith, following certain diets, praying, fasting, avoiding certain language or behavior, and observing certain religious holidays. Put simply, the many characteristics of different religions provide ample ground for disagreement, conflict, or even harassment among employers and employees on the job. In deontology, the golden rule is to treat others as you would have the treat you.
I know that if I respected someone’s beliefs to be Muslim, I expect them to have the same respect for me and my belief in God or whatever religion I choose to place my faith in. Deontologist insists that actions should not be evaluated on the basis of the action’s consequences.
Utilitarianism and Discrimination
A utilitarian might argue that in a given company, the majority of its members belong to a certain faith tradition. The greatest good for the greatest number would seem to allow that majority to pray and participate in religious activities in the way they desire (Mosser, 2013). Rule utilitarianism argues that participating in something that causes harm decreases the happiness of those who participate, even passively, in that harm. For example, discrimination occurs when the employer maintains (or allows) a hostile environment for employees of particular faiths.
Typically, this arises where co-workers harass an employee on the basis of his or her faith, to the point of creating an abusive or intimidating work environment. The harassment must be severe or pervasive in order to constitute discrimination under a hostile work environment theory. Thus, a simple disagreement over religious principles would probably not constitute unlawful harassment. Severe insults or threats, or continuing words and actions meant to harass or intimidate an employee on the basis of religion; however, it may cross the line of lawful conduct.
Relativist believe that different cultures have different attitudes towards life, as well as when it begins and ends. They say the same about religion. Many believe that God created life and God ends life. Take a survey in the workplace and you will probably get a more diverse answer. Different cultures have different religions. But who is to say which religion is right? Some companies believe that the workplace is not a place for religion. Their attitude towards life is basically work is work and your personal life (which includes your religion) is simply that. Your personal life should not conflict with your job. Leave your religion at home. Little do they know, religion is what’s keeping majority of their employees.
Accommodating Religion in the Workplace
While employers have a duty to accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees, the employer does have some leeway in how it conducts its business. There is a point where the changes that are required to accommodate an employee become a burden on the employer. Most likely, a request by an employee to trade shifts when his or her faith prevents working on Saturdays is likely to be reasonable. However, less reasonable might be a request that an employee have a particular holy month off each year. Whether an employer’s policy that limits the conduct of members of a particular faith is unreasonable depends on the circumstances. For example, a restaurant owner may require its cooks to wear hairnets or short hair, even if this creates an inconvenience for members of a faith that does not allow them to cut their hair. A job may also have certain qualifications or requirements that have the effect of limiting participation by a particular religious faith. A radio station that played rock and roll music, for example, would be allowed to fire a disc jockey that refused to play rock and roll because it was against his religion.
Deontology tells us to act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other. All human beings deserve dignity and respect and to treat a human being solely as a means to an end, to treat a human being instrumentally is to violate the categorical imperative and, thus, to act in a fundamentally immoral way. Regarding the workplace, we should treat each other’s religion as we would want our religion treated. Someone might need their religion at their job to keep them calm and sane. Some may need their religion at their job to keep peace and love between the employer and employees.
In conclusion, the law gives broad protections to employees and managers when it comes to religious beliefs, “but once an employee’s conduct in the workplace creates problems because of their beliefs, it is problematic (Tahmincioglu, 2012). Maybe religion should be accepted at work but at a distance. Use it to the point where it is accepted and once it gets out of hand, remove it.
Mooser, K. 2013. Ethics and Social Responsibility, Second Edition. Tahmincioglu, E. 2012. Religion at work can bring fire and brimstone. From http://www.today.com/money/religion-work-can-bring-fire-brimstone-460844