As the diversity within businesses increases at an alarming pace with the entire world transforming into a global village, employers, employees and legislators are all concerned about accommodating religious beliefs and observances. With the signing of Title VII that permits employees to observe the tenets of their religion at workplace, employers are planning how to obey the laws and utilize the religious accommodation as a growing strength for their profitable businesses. This research paper addresses the most debatable issue of accommodating religious beliefs in commercial, professional and industrial dealings. Furthermore, the paper will outline the ways in which religious accommodation can be made possible and positive for both employees and the employers. The paper will also highlight the implication of religious accommodation in the workplace and will present the future direction.
Ethics of accommodating religion
The reason for being at work is to perform a job. However, with religious awareness among the employees augmenting, today many demand religious freedom and expression on the job. This has posed various challenges for the employers and the first-line supervisors who need to accommodate employees' religious beliefs while not hampering the progress of any professional business dealing. The question is whether religious accommodation is ethically accurate, morally correct and economically as well as socially possible?
Ethics of accommodating religion
Today, ethics, "a set of principles of right conduct" (American Heritage Dictionary) is a major concern for global business. However, "organizational behavior is individual behavior collectivized" (American Heritage Dictionary), says Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Murphy et al.: 99). For the same reason, business enterprises work on how to modify the individual attitude in order to help business flourish and keep all employees satisfied. This compels employers to adhere to the corporate ethical codes addressing various subjects including the religious convictions of those employees who wish to practice their religion, giving birth to the concept of religious accommodation at work.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 orders employers must "reasonably accommodate all aspects of an employee's or prospective employee's religious observances, practices and beliefs unless such accommodations will impose an undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business" (Mallory: R1). Conforming to the legal obligation forms the fundamental part of the business ethics. For example, it is the duty of an employer to accommodate the religious beliefs of it's employee by granting reasonable amount of money as a compensation to work over time on days that have religious significance for the employer. But only this step would not hamper the firm's prosperity and the general environment (5 U.S.C. 5550a) (Mallory: R1).
Hence, from the above discussion it is evident that all employers are ethically as well as legally bound to accommodate religion in their firms only because it is their duty to provide high levels of satisfaction to the employees. Moreover, it the one of the business ethics to make sure that the working environment does not hamper the positive performance of an employee that would be affected negatively if the religious rights of the employee are not taken care of by the organization. Thus, it is certainly ethical to accommodate religious beliefs of all employees irrespective of what they practice and preach as long as they do not violate laws or the rights of their colleagues.
How to accommodate religion?
Following are some of the ways in which firms accommodate religious convictions of their employees. Those employers who have not incorporated the suggestions to date must follow the guidelines listed below:
Corporate leaders must learn more about religious accommodation through the notion of "servant leadership" that "brings a religious model of leadership into the business arena." (Religion in the workplace)
Hiring consultants who can incorporate spiritual values in the organizational culture by inculcating employees to "empower themselves" is yet another very effective way to accommodate religion. (Religion in the workplace)
Freedom of speech is the inherent right of an employee, which is also a religious practice that must be allowed in the organization. (Religion in the workplace)
Employers must accommodate religions by remaining flexible in matters involving personal appearance (like beards, headgear, rewriting of dress codes, making amendments in personal-grooming codes) and scheduling (like rearranging work routines in order to facilitate an employee's observance of holy days and other events). (Religion in the workplace)
Employers must pay their employees if they expect them to work on religious days.
It is the ethical responsibility of the employer to make special arrangements for its employees considering their observance of religious practices. (For instance: creating special rooms where employees can offer their prayer e.t.c.) (Religion in the workplace)
Employers must place a ban on "behaviors that contribute to a hostile work environment." For instance: include "improper humor, such as telling jokes about the Holocaust to Jewish employees; daily transmission of prayers over companies' public address systems; and preaching religion in a way that makes employees feel they're targets of conversion attempts. At the same time, employers can't discriminate against employees who proselytize in the workplace if those activities aren't interfering with business or objected to by other employees" (Lynn: 69-71)
The discussion above proves that there are some companies that display far more resilience to religious accommodation than other business firms are. This leads us to the next paragraph of our research paper that discusses a good few profit generating business enterprises that accommodate religious employees with their spiritual beliefs for they believe in talent than discrimination and faulty generalizations.
Some firms are certainly better than others!
Following is the list of the firms that are the best examples of accommodating religion:
Aventis Pharmaceuticals (Somerset, NJ):
At Aventis, employees are provided all the opportunities to practice and profess their religions as long as it does not hinder the company's progress. This firm accommodates religious observances by "personal days, flexible hours and four floating holidays" (Religious Diversity). The firm conduct religious education classes in sessions like Lunch & Learn where the employees share religious beliefs with each other. For Muslim employees Ramadan timings are also made flexible and the firm also assists those who want an early off from their work in Rosh Hashanah (Religious Diversity). Furthermore, the company issues calendars wherein important dates covering maximum religions are listed in order to provide harmony in chalking out meeting and project assignment among employees belonging to distinct religions. Aventis human resource manager shares with us the fact about her firm's flexibility in accommodating religions in the following words: "We have programs to balance work and family life. We look to retain people" (Religious diversity).
With printed diversity calendars, team-building activities and networking grouping approach, the American Express is keeping all its employees satisfied by making relentless efforts to accommodate various religions in the same working milieu. (Religious Diversity)
Ithaca Industries & Tulon Co:
Tulon Co and Ithaca Industries are also good examples of firms that believe employees' rights to profess and practice religion. These firms allow their employees to pray on the premises and are permitted to refer their religious convictions occasionally on the job as long as other employees do not get offended. (Religion in the workplace)
RBC Royal Bank:
RBC Royal Back incorporated religious accommodations in its corporate culture years ago when the concept was only emerging for it soon realized the gains and the strengths of religious accommodations and how the firm could and does benefit (DeZube). As Norma Tombari, senior manager of diversity and workforce solutions for the Toronto bank commented: "It's all part of recruiting, rewarding and recognizing the right talent and ensuring retention" (DeZube). Moreover, a good few RBC centers offer multipurpose rooms both for their employees and customers who are interested to pray and recite other religious observances (DeZube). The best part about RBC policies is the fact that RBC Royal Bank provides its employees paid leaves for religious oriented holidays and practices, displaying the most remarkable religious accommodation example (DeZube).
Freddie Mac Reston, Virginia:
Freddie Mac is another firm that is proudly reaping benefits from incorporating religious values in its corporate environment by permitting its employees to work with various affinity groups (DeZube). As Sukhi Gill, Freddie Mac's senior diversity consultant informs the public about their rules and regulations and their organizational culture, says, "We're an organization that values and respects all individuals; [we have] an inclusive work culture." (DeZube)
More than twelve employees have been permitted to conduct religious sessions where they can study and teach the tenets of their religion with the help of the Bible. The company has provided separated rooms for prayer sessions and for conducting Bible Study during lunch breaks (Divine Accommodations). However, this led to employees' unethical behavior of calling in more people through the firm's Internet facilities. This made Apache put a hold on such activities by stopping "the e-mails by citing its comprehensive "no solicitation" policy on company time, premises or media (e-mail, bulletin boards)" (Divine Accommodations). As one of the members of the firm,…