Wednesday, May 2, 2018

5.1 millions reason to keep religion out of your workplace

I’m thinking of starting a religion
“Onionhead” teaches people to direct their emotions in a truthful and compassionate way. It is central to the teachings of the Harnessing Happiness Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to emotional knowledge and intelligence, conflict resolution, and life handling skills.

Onionhead is also central to a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC against United Health Programs of America and its parent, Cost Containment Group. The aunt of the defendants’ CEO is the creator of Onionhead.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants required its employees to participate in “group prayers, candle burning, and discussions of spiritual texts,” all as part Onionhead, and fired anyone who refused to participate. The EEOC alleged that Onionhead is a religion, and forcing it upon employees violates Title VII.

Last week, a unanimous Brooklyn federal jury agreed with the EEOC, and awarded 10 employees a total of $5.1 million.

According to EEOC Trial Attorney Charles Coleman, Jr., “This case featured a unique type of religious discrimination, in that the employer was pushing its religion on employees. Nonetheless, Title VII prohibits religious discrimination of this sort and makes what happened at CCG unlawful. Employees cannot be forced to participate in religious activities by their employer.”

He is 100 percent correct. If you’re thinking of holding a prayer meeting, conducting spiritual discussions or rituals, or doing anything else remotely related to religion at your company, don’t. Religion has no place at work. Your intentions may be absolutely pure. Your employees however, have the unfettered right to practice the religion of their choice, or not to practice any religion at all.

Whatever you call your deity—God, Jesus, Jehovah, Jehovah, Allah, Buddah, Krishna … or even Onionhead—leave it at home. The workplace and religion do not mix. An employer cannot force its employees to conform to, follow, or practice, the employer’s chosen religious practices and beliefs. Anything different violates Title VII.