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Workers’ religious beliefs don’t trump your need for a bias-free workplace

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

Employees are clearly entitled to their own religious beliefs. But your organization doesn't need to bend the rules to allow those beliefs to interfere with the rights of other employees.

As the following case confirms, religious tolerance in the workplace has limits, especially when an employee's religious expression interferes with your responsibility to create a harassment-free environment.

Recent case: When Hewlett-Packard (H-P) posted work-place diversity posters that included a picture of a gay worker, employee Richard Peterson protested by printing two scriptures in large type that condemned gays. He posted them on his cubicle.

The company asked him to remove the scriptures, and he agreed to do so only if the company removed the diversity posters. The company removed Peter-son's scriptures and placed him on a paid leave of absence to allow him to reconsider his decision.

When he returned, he posted the scriptures again, so H-P fired him for insubordination.

He sued, alleging religious discrimination, claiming the diversity campaign targeted fundamentalist Christians. A lower court rejected Peterson's claim, and a federal appeals court agreed.

Court's reasoning: The worker was not fired because of his religious beliefs, but because he was insubordinate and his anti-gay postings violated the company's anti-harassment policy. The only accommodation he was willing to accept (removing the company's diversity posters) would have imposed an undue hardship on the company.

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