Monday, August 7, 2023

Work and religion aren’t a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

Everyone's relationship with God — whether you call that deity God, Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, Buddha, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, something else, or nothing at all — is personal. I have no opinion on your spiritual relationship, as should you have none on mine. Thus, I get mad whenever someone tries to shove their religious beliefs down my throat. Not only do I not care, but I can guarantee that you will not change my mind. Proselytism is one small step removed from fanaticism, and rarely, if ever, has anything good come from religious fanaticism.

I share the above as prologue to today's discussion, which focuses on a Title VII lawsuit the EEOC recently settled with Aurora Pro Services, a North Carolina residential home service and repair company, alleged to have required employees to participate in religious prayer sessions as a condition of employment. 

According to the EEOC, the company required as a condition of employment that all employees attend daily Christian prayer meetings. The company's owner led the meetings, which included Bible readings, Christian devotionals, and the solicitation of prayer requests from employees. The owner even took attendance and reprimanded employees who did not attend. Two employees even lost their jobs: a construction manager who asked to be excused from the prayer portion of the meetings and a customer service representative who stopped attending because they conflicted with her own religious beliefs.

To resolve these claims, the company agreed to pay $50,000 to the affected employees. It also agreed to implement a new anti-discrimination, non-retaliation, and religious accommodation policy, and to provide related training to all employees, including the owner.

"Federal law protects employees from having to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and their jobs," said Melinda C. Dugas, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. She adds, "Employers who sponsor prayer meetings in the workplace have a legal obligation to accommodate employees whose personal religious beliefs conflict with the company's practice."

To that sentiment, I say, "Amen."