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Religion and business

Religion and business

Confronted with the expression of religion in the workplace, companies and managers often feel powerless. How can you maintain proper functioning of the organization while respecting everyone’s rights?

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What can be done when religion becomes a subject of tension, or even of disruption, in the workplace? More and more managers and executives are asking themselves this question in line with an increasing number of incidents. In France, for example, according to the Randstad Institute and to the Observatoire du fait religieux en entreprise [Observatory of the religious in business], 48% of managers were required to address situations dealing with religion in 2016, against 38% in 2015. Among these solicitations, really contentious cases remained a minority, growing from 3% in 2014 to 9% in 2016. The most common sources of dispute were about wearing visible religious signs (21% of cases), time-off requests for religious reasons (18% of cases), requests for an adaptation of the working hours (14%), the requests for prayer breaks (14%), and the refusal to work with people from the opposite gender (9%). The same can be observed in the United States, where the number of complaints filed for religious discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has more than doubled between 1997 and 2016.

Faced with the rise of religious expression in the workplace, companies and managers often feel powerless. Should we consider the company as a totally secularized place and refuse any request or behavior linked to religion? But what right have we to thus behave, and how can we face accusations of discrimination by upset staff members? Should we favor identifying arrangements? But then, how can we prevent arrangements thus granted to some from being perceived by others as a discrimination towards them, and the situation creating a complexity detrimental to the correct functioning of the company? Faced with this dilemma, four pieces of advice emerge:

- Remind all those who could get involved in such situations of the legal fundamentals in place.

- Anticipate by clarifying the rules that apply to all in reference documents: employment contracts, rules of procedure, etc.

- Favor a pragmatic approach for conflict resolution: dialogue and reminders of the common rules often enable the identification of a solution.

- Foster “living-togetherthrough the company culture.

Synopsis n.272a


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