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Accommodating Religious Expression in the Workplace

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Accommodating Religious Expression in the Workplace

Douglas Bennett, Christine Elrod, Aaron Harris, Narnice Johnson,

Wanona Redd, Shannon Struik

Liberty University

BUSI 342-D02

Respectfully submitted to: Professor Dr. Eric L. Richardson

August 12, 2013


As our country becomes more diverse there is a growing precedence of religious expression in the workplace. This increased diversity creates new opportunities for organizations to accommodate religious expression in the workplace. This issue evokes strong emotions, and is subject to certain legal precedents. Certain issues have to be addressed in order to effectively understand the complexity of religious expression in the workplace, and how HR professionals should respond. Organizations have to understand the legal framework, and stay within the legal precedents that have been set. They need to examine what judicial interpretations and Supreme Court responses pertain to the issues. Organizations must take into account the employee employer perspective. They will be able to identify whether spirituality in the workplace is a benefit to the organization or a hindrance. They will identify what barriers need to be in place, while ensuring that all legal rights are protected. Employees should be accommodated in the workplace for their religious needs within a reasonable manner.

Concepts Covered

This paper will discuss the following concepts from our textbook: protected category (Mathis & Jackson, 2011, p. 74), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Mathis & Jackson, 2011, p. 78), reasonable accommodation (Mathis & Jackson, 2011, p. 96), religious expression in the workplace (Mathis & Jackson, 2011, p. 97), and managing religious diversity (Mathis & Jackson, 2011, p. 96).


In this day and time, with more emphasis by employees being put on the expression of their religion in the workplace, Human Resource Managers are faced with many issues that conflict with their current policies. Accommodating religious expression in the workplace is a growing concern and requires HR professionals to have both an understanding of the legal framework and view the issue from an employer and employee perspective. Spirituality is defined by Mitroff and Denton (1999), is the basic feeling of being connected with one's complete self, others and the entire universe. Workplace spirituality can be defined as a certain way of thinking about yourself, work, and work-related organizations.

Because spirituality in the workplace is still a relatively new concept, in 2011 professionals and business thinkers continue to develop definitions for this topic. Researchers have found that there have been five major trends that have led to an increased interest in integrating spirituality and work: The changing psychological contract for work; changing demographics and aging of the workforce; The Millennium Effect; Increased interest in self-help groups and personal growth; September 11, 2001 and terrorism. There is a great conversation occurring about how employers make accommodation for their employee who chose to practice their spirituality in the workplace.

Spirituality in the Workplace

Spirituality in the workplace has become a growing concern within corporate America for the past decade; several explanations have been offered as to why. Spirituality has been categorized into 'religiosity" and so being spiritual in the workplace has had negative views. Hayden and Barbuto (2011) stated that "this stance leads to the proposition that non-ideological conceptionalizations are more suited for the workplace" (p.142). One of the reasons that spirituality in the workplace has become an important issue is that the concerns for a "work-life balance" and workplaces in general have become more "impersonal and insecure." Also, the need to be politically correct has become more of a priority in organizations because they do not want to offend anyone and possibly be sued for discrimination. According to Hayden and Barbuto (2011), "This wariness of spirituality may also be due to the fact that spirituality has often been understood as no different than, and therefore has received similar treatment by organizations as, religiosity" (p.142).

It is critical to know the difference between spirituality and religiosity, to see if it even fits within the workplace environment. They both should not be put into the same category and viewed as one in the same; this is why it is important to make the distinctions in order to see if spirituality in the workplace would be beneficial. There are those who say that spirituality "(or being spiritual) is not the same as being 'religious' because spirituality is viewed by some as a 'universal human experience;' religion has to do with 'articulation and perhaps propagation of a particular ideology'" (Hayden & Barbuto, 2011, p.143).

Spirituality is the fulfillment of a more universal inherent human need (descriptive). Religion is more of an expression of specific, shared set of beliefs or practices; not universal (prescriptive). This "descriptive versus prescriptive characterization is but one way to begin to differentiate between the two. But religion and spirituality are not mutually exclusive" (Hayden & Barbuto, 2011, p.143). The "prescriptive" interpretations are viewed often and judged as religious, a descriptive interpretation is judged as more "spiritual in nature," but not necessarily seen as religious.

While the benefits of workplace spirituality to the organization have been researched, and continue to be researched, researchers agree that it is possible that organizations have taken advantage of it (as with any knowledge or tool). It is also possible that it has been over exaggerated. According to Hayden and Barbuto (2011), there is not one set list of written characteristics, behaviors, virtues, or values to measure spirituality. A set of core values that could be linked to a spiritual employee could be honesty, forgiveness, hope, gratitude, humility, compassion, and integrity. A set of virtues applicable to the workplace would be courage, self-control, generosity, sociability, and justice. Wisdom and prudence were added as intellectual virtues. All religions have the shared set of values such as humility.



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