Monday, March 14, 2005

RELIGION IN THE WORKPLACE: Using mediation to address conflicts between workers and employers

Balancing the demands of faith and work has increasingly become an issue for American businesses.

Such was the case at Dell Inc., in Nashville, Tennessee, when thirty Muslim employees walked off their jobs in February to protest Dell’s refusal to allow them to stop work for sunset prayers. According to an Associated Press release issued today, the workers have elected to take this issue to mediation, which is being handled through Nashville’s Human Relations Commission. Under federal law, employers must accommodate employees’ religious beliefs or practices so long as doing so would not constitute an undue hardship.

Religion in the workplace can lead to other tensions as well. As more businesses welcome spirituality into the workplace, complaints by employees have surfaced alleging that non-believers are subjected to hostile work environments by proselytizing co-workers.

Workplace mediators and ADR specialists will want to follow these trends closely as expressions of spirituality and faith continue to become more commonplace in business settings.