Accommodating Religion in the Workplace

If you hesitated last month before heartily wishing your employees “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah,” you’re not alone. Striking a balance between accommodating religious expression while adhering to Workplace Religious Freedom Act tenets can be tricky. As a small business owner, your first priority relating to addressing religion in the workplace should be securing a comprehensive Indianapolis Employment Practices Liability policy. This will protect you should an employee sue you for religious or any other type of discrimination. Once you’re protected, strive to embrace policies that are accommodating, sensitive, and respectful of employees’ beliefs. Allowing religious expression can actually boost productivity and morale.

Be flexible with holiday observances. Different religions observe holidays that fall on different dates and call for different types of worship. Consider giving employees one or two personal holidays per year they can use for religious observances. On religious holidays when employees do come to work, be flexible by allowing them to come in late or early or take extended lunch breaks to accommodate worship schedules.

Be flexible with the dress code. Hijabs, flowing robes, and long beards are all examples of religious dress that could run afoul of your company’s dress code. If faith-based dress and grooming don’t interfere with employees’ abilities to do their jobs, it’s best to allow them.

Strive to celebrate the holidays, inclusively. In December, when two of the most-celebrated religious holidays occur (Christmas and Hanukkah), there’s no need to skip the festivities for fear of offending non-observing employees. Instead of throwing a company Christmas Party, throw a Holiday or End of Year Party. Instead of decorating only with a Christmas tree, designate a section of the office to be decorated for the holidays, and encourage employees to contribute symbols of their personal faith and backgrounds to the display.

Allowing your employees to express their unique religious beliefs isn’t just required by law, it is good business. Employees who feel respected and valued will be much more productive than employees who feel marginalized.

We live in increasingly litigious world, and small businesses are top targets for discrimination claims. Please contact Walker & Associates Insurance today at (888) 760-7292 for more information about our employment practices liability insurance coverage as well as our other products and services.