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Note to supervisors: No comments about religion and work

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources

It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating: Tell supervisors and managers to avoid discussing religion if at all possible. And never, ever use blunt terms to make an employee choose between her religion and her job.

Instead, focus any discussion of religious accommodations on the company’s legitimate needs. For example, if it’s impossible to schedule someone who wants Sundays off to worship, explain why. Don’t belittle or berate her religious views. That will probably land you in court, even if denying the preferred schedule would have been permissible because it caused undue hardship for your business.

Recent case: When Kaesha Colbert-Green applied for a job, she told interviewers she always needed Sundays off for church and to observe the Sabbath with her family. But after she filed a sexual harassment complaint, she claims her boss insisted she work some Sundays. He told Colbert-Green she would need to “choose between your God and who’s going to pay your bills, your God or your job.” She then was fired for missing work on a Sunday.

The court hearing her case dismissed her sexual harassment lawsuit because HR responded immediately and moved the alleged harasser. But it let stand her retaliation and religious discrimination lawsuit. It considered the boss’s comments direct evidence of religious discrimination. (Colbert-Green v. National Wholesale Liquidators, No. 06-13242, ED MI, 2007)

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