Sometimes, employers may seem a little insensitive to religions outside the mainstream. For example, your company probably put up a Christmas tree to brighten the workplace during the holiday season. And it is also possible that an employee suggested it might be nice to put up other symbols of the season, such as a menorah.
If you rejected that suggestion, don’t worry that you’ll be ringing in the New Year with a religious discrimination lawsuit.
Simply put, without more evidence of antipathy toward a religion, such small incidents aren’t discrimination.
Recent case: A Jewish employee was fired about a year after beginning a new job at a bank. said he didn’t have the communications skills it thought he had when he was hired.
The man sued, alleging religious discrimination. A year earlier, he had suggested that the bank’s Christmas tree display should include a menorah. Bank officials rejected the idea. In fact, when he made the suggestion, he was met with a blank stare, which he took as a comment on his Jewish religion.
The court tossed out his lawsuit, reasoning that the menorah rejection was too isolated and too ambiguous to prove religious discrimination. (Schoenberg v. Fifth Third Bank, No. 1:07-CV-276, SD OH, 2008)
Final note: Do consider allowing other religious holidays to be celebrated if you celebrate Christmas. Such an effort goes a long way toward creating a feeling of inclusiveness that welcomes and values employees from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds.
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