Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Earlier this year, we conducted a non-scientific survey to learn if you had experienced or witnessed religious bias in your workplace.

Although most of you who responded have never experienced any kind of religious discrimination in the workplace, 21% of you said that you had experienced unequal treatment. If we include those of you who witnessed bias, the number jumps to 29%. So, approximately 1-in-3 of you have experienced or witnessed religious bias at work.  

The diverse stories you shared suggested that no religion in particular seemed to be discriminated against more than the others. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists felt equally bullied at certain times in their work environments—especially during religious holidays.

Here are some story highlights, opinions and responses to “Have you ever personally experienced religious harassment/bullying/bias in the workplace?”

  • I worked for a very Orthodox Jewish employer and they allowed all Orthodox Jewish employees, but not others, to take off every holiday. They never offered an explanation why.
     
  • I am Roman Catholic and on Ash Wednesday, comments were made about my ashes on my forehead. How silly and pointless it was. I have been made fun of for going to confession.
     
  • I am deeply religious. I often feel that people make fun of religion or act like religious people are all fanatics and crazy. They never say I'm crazy, but I am the only one who seems to defend religion in our conversations.
     
  • Nothing in my employer’s holiday policy allows for alternative days off, just standard Christian holidays. My employer also does not make an effort to schedule meetings around important non-Christian religious holidays.
     
  • Where I work, many people are atheists and are not even comfortable discussing religion openly.
     
  • I work in an academic environment and I have experienced bullying from fundamentalist atheists, not from people of faith.

Although our survey was not scientific, the results certainly indicate that there is a need for employers to be more accommodating of religious needs in the workplace.

If you are working for a company that could use help adopting an accommodation mindset, we have several resources that might be of help to the company and their human resource professionals:

We thank everyone who participated in the survey. Although we only printed a small sample of the comments, we read and appreciated all the responses and look forward to hearing from you in our next survey. 

If you have a suggestion for a survey topic or question, we’d love to hear it! Please comment below or send the questions our way!