On Friday, the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, a secular organization dedicated to combatting religious prejudice, released the findings of a survey on religion in the American workplace. A key finding is that religious diversity is increasing in the workplace, and with it, increasing problems relating to accommodation.
“Overall, the incidence of workplace conflicts and discrimination over religion seems to be a fairly significant issue, according to the survey, with one-third of respondents reporting that they have seen or experienced incidents of religious bias in the workplace. The most frequently cited problems were not interactions with co-workers but instead related to a failure of companies to provide sufficient accommodations for believers, especially non-Christians. Half of those respondents said that their employers are ignoring their religious needs.”
The study pointed out that a key complaint relating to religious accommodation was being forced to work on holy days (24% of respondents had this issue), in addition, atheists, agnostics, and non-Christians tend to feel the most uncomfortable when the topic of religion is brought up.
“More than 4-in-10 (43%) atheist and agnostic/secular workers say they feel somewhat or very uncomfortable when the topic of religion comes up. Nearly 3-in-10 (29%) non-Christian workers say they feel somewhat or very uncomfortable when the topic of religion comes up. Conversely, nearly 9-in-10 white evangelical workers say they are somewhat (30%) or very (58%) comfortable when the issue of religion comes up in the workplace. Strong majorities of Catholics (84%), black Protestants (83%), white mainline Protestants (75%), and non-Christian religious workers (71%) report that they feel somewhat or very comfortable when the topic of religion comes up at work.”
While it is encouraging that such a large majority of non-Christians feel comfortable discussing religion at work, less than half of employers take steps to minimize accommodation issues and religious tensions. Only 44% provide flexible work hours for religious observances, 42% provide materials on company policy relating to religious discrimination, only 21% allow employees to swap holidays, and 14% have programs to teach about religious diversity. On the whole, non-Christians tend to feel more excluded or treated differently than any other group.
“Non-Christian religious workers (13%) are substantially more likely than members of any other religious group, including atheists (5%), to say they have felt excluded or felt they were treated differently at work because of their religious beliefs or views on religion.”
Tanenbaum believes that our workplace is a microcosm for the country we live in, and that shining light on these issues will urge companies to be proactive for their own benefit, and thereby reduce religious conflict as a whole.
“Workplaces are a microcosm of America. They are becoming more diverse and, according to the survey, employees in diverse workplaces experience or witness more incidents of religious conflict. In addition, employees at workplaces with a culture of respect and accommodation have a higher level of satisfaction. In the near future, in order to attract and keep the best talent, companies will need to become more proactive about addressing religious diversity. America will follow. We will need to address religious diversity in order to reduce conflicts and ensure that people of all backgrounds feel at home in the US.”
In the past, The Wild Hunt has documented cases of workplace religious discrimination or bias against Pagans, and with this new data I wonder, do modern Pagans feel more or less comfortable at their workplace? Since this is Labor Day weekend here in the States, it seems like an ideal time to take stock. Have things improved? Do you feel comfortable with your co-workers knowing you’re a Pagan? Does your job give you days off for your holidays? Are you, are we, better or worse off now than in the past? Share your thoughts in the comments, or blog about it, and link back to this article.