Employees have a legal right to work in an environment free from discrimination and harassment—even religious harassment.
Employees should not have to endure harassment based on their faith, membership in a particular religion—or even their lack of faith.
Remember: You can tell employees to stop proselytizing in the workplace. They can’t claim “free speech” as their excuse—employees don’t have free speech rights in private workplaces.
Recent case: Zachary Winspear, an employee of a Minnesota development company, was devastated when his brother committed suicide. Winspear had rejected his strict religious upbringing, so he was sensitive to religious talk.
One day, the company owner’s wife told Winspear that she could speak with the dead and that she’d recently been contacted by his dead brother. She told Winspear that his brother was suffering in hell and wanted Winspear to “find God” so he would avoid the same suffering.
The conversation upset Winspear. He told the woman to stop, but she didn’t.
Winspear complained to the company owner. But he just told Winspear that his wife had a “gift” and Winspear should follow her advice.
Winspear finally quit and sued for religious harassment.
The federal appeals court allowed the case to go to trial, saying that although the woman’s comments may not have been many, they were severe, considering how sensitive Winspear was about his brother’s suicide. (Winspear v. Community Development, Inc., et al., No. 08-2041, 8th Cir., 2009)
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