Did you know that in 2022, claims of religious discrimination at work filed with the EEOC were up over 650% from the previous year? SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY PERCENT!
The driving force was a significant increase in vaccine-related charges filed based on religion. Combine that with the recent Supreme Court decision on religious accommodations, and more people are aware of their religious rights in the workplace.
But they only extend so far. For example, private, secular employers invite trouble when injecting religion into the workplace.
Last year, I wrote about an employer that, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, tried to require Christian prayer meetings at work.
Here’s more from the EEOC press release:
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, since at least June 2020, the company required all employees to attend daily employer-led Christian prayer meetings. The meetings were conducted by the company owner and included Bible readings, Christian devotionals, and solicitation of prayer requests from employees. [The] owner took roll before some of the meetings and reprimanded employees who did not attend.
And God forbid (sorry, I couldn’t resist) an employee wanted to skip a meeting. Two employees allegedly tried that. It didn’t end well.
When a construction manager asked to be excused from the prayer portion of the meetings in the fall of 2020, the defendant company refused to accommodate the employee’s religious beliefs (atheist), cut his pay, and fired him. A few months later, in January 2021, [the company] terminated a customer service representative who stopped attending the prayer meetings because the meetings conflicted with her religious beliefs (agnostic).
Yesterday, the EEOC announced a settlement. The company agreed to pay $50,000 to the affected employees as part of a three-year consent decree, which also prohibits the company from discriminating and retaliating against employees in the future. The company will also adopt and implement a new anti-discrimination, non-retaliation, and religious accommodation policy and provide training to all managers and employees.
Including the owner.
This isn’t to say that employers need to sanitize religion from the workplace. However, employees shouldn’t have to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and their jobs. If private, secular employers invite religious expression, they should not proselytize, and they must accommodate employees with conflicting personal religious or spiritual views.